We believe that everyone can learn to read and write, but we also believe that for that to happen, everyone must be taught appropriately. That is, your children have to be taught in ways that make sense to them, allow them to feel success, and build on what they know. Emergent literacy describes all of the nonconventional understandings and behaviors children demonstrate before they become conventionally literate. Adam, a 10-year-old with Williams syndrome we worked with several years ago, wrote (at left), when asked about his interests, "Yo Gabba Gabba is my favorite tv show. I know all the songs." His writing is emergent. It has a few recognizable letters, some letter-like shapes, but we need the author to read it to us because it lacks sufficient convention.
We've linked three excellent free resources on emergent literacy in the resources page. They are modules created by the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies as part of the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment project focused on children with intellectual disabilities. The resources address emergent writing teaching principles and practices; shared reading as a way to build interaction, communication, and engagement; and predictable charts as a way to teach concepts about print and sight words through repetition with variety and focusing on children's interests.