________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


Early Literacy Fundamentals: A Balanced Approach to Language, Listening and Literacy Skills - Ages 3-6.

Sue Palmer and Ros Bayley.
Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers, 2005.
104 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 1-55138-184-2.

Subject Headings:
Language arts (Preschool).
Language arts (Kindergarten).
Language arts (Elementary).


Review by Linda Ludke.

*** ½ /4


There can be little doubt that, in terms of literacy, and perhaps all school-based education, the most fundamental skills of all is listening. Unless children can listen discriminately and with growing attention, they will be slow to understand and slow to talk. As they grow older, they'll have difficulty relating and attending to their teachers, which easily leads to behavioural problems and disaffection, blighting the ability to learn throughout their school career. 


In this thought-provoking book, originally published in the United Kingdom in 2004, literacy expert Sue Palmer and early years consultant Ros Bayley outline their seven-strand approach to nurturing literacy development in young children.

     The authors posit that later success in literacy depends on early attention to listening and speaking skills. They note that Scandinavian countries have a completely oral curriculum until children are seven years old and the students display greater attention spans and a have a higher boredom threshold.  

     Each chapter focuses on a strand of practice: "Learning to Listen," "Time to Talk," "Music, Movement and Memory," "Storytime," "Learning about print," "Tuning into sound," and "Moving into writing". Research-based background information is presented, along with over 150 interactive games, discussion-starters, and rhymes. The activities develop crucial skills in a fun, relaxed manner. For example, to widen the range of aural discrimination, take children on a "listening walk," or play "spot the sound". Ideas such as offering visual support (with pictures, photographs, small objects) and modelling pole-bridging talk (or giving running commentary on activities) can easily be incorporated into an early years classroom or library storytime. 

     The book is well organized, with each chapter building on the previous skill set. Bordered end notes discuss supports for children with special needs. Nine appendices include a language development overview, literacy activity checklists and a PREPARE (Plan, Recount, Explore, Predict, Analyse, Report, Explain) chart that lists questions to initiate discussion with children. 

     Palmer and Bayley's seven strands are designed to "switch on the searchlights" and develop the skills children need before they are able to read and write. This book is a valuable resource for anyone working with young children and their families.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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