Early Literacy Development

Support Your Child’s Early Literacy Development at Home

A big misconception is that early literacy means early reading instruction. That is not the case but it does refer to what children know about reading and writing before they actually do either one. For instance, learning their ABCs is only one of the pre-reading skills that children need to help them learn to read and write. The best way to support your child’s early literacy development at home is to introduce them to as many words as possible beginning at birth! You can achieve this by talking, reading, singing, writing and playing with your child every day.

Mastering the six skills learned in early literacy (below) will help children successfully learn to read:

Print Awareness: learning to use and love books.
Begin reading to your child when he is a baby and don’t stop; let him play with books as an infant (even if it means that some pages might get torn or chewed on); recite nursery rhymes; let him use a book to tell you a story.

Vocabulary: learning new words and understanding their meaning.
Speak the language you know best to your child; point out words and their meaning as you explore the world around your child; point to words on the page as you read.

Narrative Skills: being able to understand and tell stories and describe events.
Talk to your child as you go about your day, describing what you are doing; ask him questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer; play imaginative games and make up stories.

Phonological Awareness: being able to hear sounds in words.
Read animal sound books as well as rhyming and song books; listen to music together, and sing; play rhyming games, even as they get older.

Letter Knowledge: recognizing that the letters are different from each other and have different names and sounds.
Teach your child her shapes (triangles, squares, circles, etc.) as it will be crucial for learning her letters; read and reread colorful board books; make letters using play-dough, chalk, paint and even sticks while outside; go on a letter scavenger hunt when on a walk or driving in the car.

Print Awareness: understanding that print is everywhere and has meaning.
Encourage your baby to play with books and turn pages; read books that have a few simple words in large, clear fonts; make books together from a story your child has made up.


  • Sing nursery rhymes while using hand motions.
  • Read books with lots of simple words and repetition.
  • If your baby is interested and having fun then she is learning! Keep making facial expressions when you’re talking to her.
  • Put words to the sounds your baby is making. For example: “I think you want to tell me about the doggy you hear outside.”
  • Make reading part of your routine. Purchase plastic books for reading time in the bath.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • Encourage your child to join in with reading by repeating lines of the stories.
  • Read stories, magazines, newspapers, signs, and recipes together.
  • At this stage, children love singing the alphabet and looking at colorful books with lots of pictures.
  • Purchase magnetic letters for the fridge and make one the “Letter of the Day.”
  • Read books with pop-up art, colorful pictures, fun textures, and that make sounds.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • Whenever you are looking at words together, ask your child to point out a specific letter such as “A” on the page when she sees it.
  • When reading a book with animals, make animal noises together.
  • Ask your child care provider to suggest diverse and age-appropriate children’s books, poetry, and music for you to enjoy at home.
  • Create a special reading place in your home, with your child’s favorite books within reach.
  • Use a checklist, like from www.prekinders.com, for letter sounds and sight words.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • During clean-up time, call out opposites as you clean. We are cleaning high/low, fast/slow, and soft toys/hard toys.
  • Towards the end of each page when the story is becoming familiar, ask “what do you think will happen next?”
  • Ask your child care provider or a librarian to suggest a book in which you can pair with a family experience such as: going fishing, tasting sushi, or going on a road trip.
  • Play a letter game that helps your child match sounds with letters. For instance, ask your child, “what words begin with the letter A?”
  • After reading a story discuss the beginning, middle, and the end. Ask your child what they liked and disliked about it.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • When reading a rhyming book together, leave off the last rhyme. See if your child can guess what is coming next.
  • To better understand stories, children need to know the meaning of words. Keep exploring opposites and talking about the unfamiliar words in the story.
  • Encourage your child to read a story to their favorite stuffed animals or dolls.
  • Purchase some sidewalk chalk and write sight words in the driveway.
  • Have your little one decorate a popsicle stick. Use it to point to the words as you read aloud.

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