According to Montessori Theory, the development of literacy begins long before children start primary school, and is acquired in a variety of ways at different ages.

Literacy development is nourished by social interactions with caring adults and supported by access to a wide range of engaging reading and writing learning activities.

Children’s literacy progress, from emergent to fluent literacy, is influenced by a number of factors, including their continuing literacy development, understanding of literacy concepts, and the efforts of parents and Montessori teachers to promote literacy and language development.

Children’s Literacy Development

From the very first months of life, children’s experiences with oral language begin to build a foundation for later reading and writing success.

During the first few months children begin to distinguish the sound of the human voice, whereas between the ages of two to three years, children ‘explode’ into language by learning to speak in phrases and sentences.

Following is an approximate chart of language development that a child follows:

• 3 months: The child turns to the sound of the human voice
• 4 months: The child focuses on the lips of a speaking person
• 6 months: The child produces simple syllables
• 10 months: The child realises that words have meaning and begin to intentionally interpret and use speech
• 10 – 18 months: The child’s vocabulary dramatically increases as they consciously provide names for people, objects, and things
• 21 – 24 months: The child ‘explodes’ into language, speaking in phrases and sentences
• 30 months: The child’s basic vocabulary is compete (approx. 200 words)
• 6 years: The child’s basic secondary vocabulary is complete (approx. 2,000 words)

Promoting Literacy Development

Research consistently demonstrates that the more children know about language and literacy, before they begin formal schooling, the better equipped they are to succeed in reading.

To promote literacy in the classroom and the home it is essential that young children are exposed to literacy-rich environments and receive developmentally appropriate literacy instruction.

Such environments and experiences have a profound effect on children’s literacy development by providing them with opportunities and encouragement to become successful readers.

Literacy and Language Activities

• Read to your child with or without visual stimulus
• Encourage your child to select a favourite book to read with you
• Set up a small child sized library in your home
• Take your child to the library and arrange a tour with your local librarian
• Encourage your child to tell a story about one of their favourite pictures
• Recite poetry with your child in the forms of nursery rhymes, songs, poems and puppetry
• Make newspapers and non-fiction reading materials available to your child
• Create a ‘language mystery bag’ where your child must name and describe the objects in the bag
• Encourage your child to document their experiences by writing stories or keeping a journal
• Place bold printed labels around your child’s room and/or home

Source: Language Arts, North American Montessori Center