The importance of learning to read and write cannot be overstated. Well-developed literacy skills are associated with improved economic and social outcomes, whereas underdeveloped reading and writing skills correlate with poor economic and social prospects, an increased chance of incarceration, low self-esteem, and even poor health outcomes. To a great extent, the quality of an individual’s life depends upon the robustness of his or her literacy skills. Although these skills continue to develop throughout childhood and into adulthood, the language experiences that children encounter during the early childhood years are critically important in laying a foundation for eventual success in reading and writing. This entry examines the oral language skills that affect the acquisition of reading and writing; the emergent literacy skills that children develop ...

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