Exposure to the written word begins in the 2s, with both fiction and nonfiction read aloud daily. This continues well into the Upper School where teachers expose the children to increasingly varied—and complex— material, providing a rich literacy experience.
In the earliest years, the Language Arts program focuses on the communication skills children need to express themselves. In the process of communicating with others, the children increase their vocabularies and their sentences become more complex. As their facility with language becomes more sophisticated, they are able to experience the satisfaction of the give and- take of conversations. The need to communicate leads children to recognize that letters make up words and that words express ideas. From this recognition comes the eagerness to practice the decoding skills necessary for becoming an independent reader. As visual and auditory discrimination skills develop, City and Country children are introduced to the symbol system through a mix of phonics instruction and whole-language-based techniques inspired by trips, block work, and other everyday activities.
Although reading periods occur each day the art of reading is woven throughout the day, as children review their daily schedules, follow recipes, and make signs for their block work. Children are taught in both large- and small-group settings so that phonemic awareness, decoding, and comprehension skills may be individually developed. When children reach the 7s, they begin to spend 30 minutes each day in the Library reading for pleasure; this guided Special continues daily through the 13s.
Independent reading continues throughout the Middle and Upper School, and literature is also shared in large and small groups settings. In the 8s and 9s, the children engage in literary analysis, discussing character motivation, plot development, setting, and style in small book groups. In the older groups, they express their understanding of more complex literary forms through dramatic presentations, debates, and panel discussions.
Throughout their school experience, children are encouraged to perceive themselves as writers, as people who have something to say. We support them as they develop their personal voice, whether they are reflecting in a journal, constructing an argument for an essay, or crafting a poem. Teachers take dictation from the youngest children to help them create picture stories until they are able to write their own thoughts clearly. The older children are expected to write in many genres, in correct and complex sentences, and eventually prepare position papers, theses, and literary publications. Most of all, children at City and Country School love to write because writing is about ideas—their ideas.