Early Literacy Information
Early literacy (sometimes called pre-literacy or pre-reading) is what children learn about reading before they actually start reading. Parents are the first and most important teachers in helping their children get prepared for reading before kindergarten and it is never too early or late to start. You know your child better than anyone and can help them learn reading skills in ways that are uniquely right for them. You may not realize this, but early literacy is already part of the fun you have every day with your child while you are reading, talking, singing, writing, and playing together. As you spend time on these practices together, it stimulates growth in your child's brain and helps build the foundation in the brain needed for reading.
As you're doing those 5 practices everyday, keep in mind the 6 early literacy skills researchers have found that children need to do well at before they can learn to read successfully. Make sure to add the following skills in when you read, talk, sing, write, and play with your child and they will be on their way to reading readiness (they're the perfect combination!) There are unlimited ways you can come up with to add these skills into your child's daily life that work for them.
If you'd like additional suggestions please ask the Children's Department staff, along with any other early literacy questions you may have.
The Six Early Literacy Skills
- Narrative Skills: Knowing how to describe things and tell stories. Ask your child to tell you a story about something that happened to them, like when they went to the park or to visit a friend.
- Print Motivation: Being both interested in and enjoying books Let your child see you having fun reading on your own.
- Vocabulary: Knowing the name for things. Throughout the day, ask your child to help you name all of the things you see, from flowers to pencils.
- Phonological Awareness: Being able to hear and notice the smaller sounds in words. Separate the syllables of a word and ask your child to put them all together and guess what word you are trying to say.
- Letter Knowledge: Knowing the names and sounds of letters and their difference from each other. Point out letters on signs, labels, and other things you see every day, from stop signs to cereal boxes.
- Print Awareness: Noticing printed words and how to follow them on a page. Follow words on book pages with your finger so your child follows along and sees the connection between the print words and what you're saying.
Tips for reading to your child
- Let your child help pick the book.
- Make sure you are energetic while you read. Act out the different characters by using voices, expressions, and changing the volume of your voice. This helps engage your child in the story.
- Bring your child into the story by asking them questions or changing the name of a character to their name!
- Make sure your child is in the right mood to hear a story and is not too tired or distracted. Maybe set a reading time for everyday, like before bedtime.
- Prepare before you read: if you haven't read the book before, try to look it over beforehand, so you know what to expect.
- Hold the book facing your child so they can see the pictures and printed words.
- If your child asks a lot of questions during the story, answer them and be proud because it means you're doing a great job reading and they're engaged in the story!
- It's usually nothing to worry about if you child moves around while you're reading or plays with a toy. A lot of times, they are paying attention. Ask them questions about the story to check in case you're unsure. If they answer your questions well, you'll know they are indeed paying attention.
- Encourage your child to participate by letting them say a phrase the book repeats regularly when you get to those parts in the book.
- Read at a pace that's comfortable for your child. If you read too fast, they may become confused because they don't have enough time to understand what's happening. Too slow, and they might become bored.
Early Literacy Recommended Sites
- Department of Education's
Help My Child Read: several resources, from early literacy tips to recent research results.
- Get Ready to Read: various resources, including early literacy tips and activities.
- Reach Out and Read: an initiative that works with pediatricians to promote early literacy and provides tips, a developmental milestones chart, and more for parents.
- National Children's Literacy Website: provides information about the importance of the first five years of a child's life and has topics about reading to children.
- Center for Early Literacy Learning: several activity guides to view and print with everyday pre-reading activities.
- Reading Rockets' hour-long video about early literacy
- Story Blocks: videos and lyrics for popular and lesser-known songs and rhymes.
- Reading Is Fundamental: early literacy information, tips, songs, and online kids' games.