Early Literacy

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Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. There are five early literacy practices your child needs to get ready to read, listen and write. Use them daily and get your little one ready for success.


Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and others talk. Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.

  • Have your child tell you what is happening in a story.
  • Expand on what your child says. For example, a parent may say, "Yes, that is a truck, it's a bulldozer."
  • Blowing bubbles is a great way to strengthen the small muscles in your child's mouth that are important for speech.
  • Children need to hear a language in order to speak it so if you speak multiple languages do so in front of your child.


Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words.

  • Clapping along to the rhythm in songs helps them break down words into syllables and strengthens their motor skills.
  • Sing songs fast and slow and over and over.
  • Sing songs with rhyming words, silly words, and long stretched out words.
  • Singing develops listening and memory skills and makes repetition easier for young children as it is easier to remember a short song than a short story.
  • Check out children's music CDs at the library.
  • Sing a lullaby to your child.


Reading together, shared reading, is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. It increases vocabulary and general knowledge, and helps children develop an interest in learning to read to themselves.

  • Read every day. Find a time to read when you and your child will both enjoy it and choose books on topics that interest your child.
  • Stop before a predictable word and ask the child to give you the word.
  • Have a book box or shelf for your child to store their books.
  • Ask open ended questions as you read the story.
  • Discuss the meaning of unfamiliar words. In reading children are introduced to rare words that they may not have heard in daily conversation.


Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information.

  • Encourage your child to "sign" their name on art creations even if it is only a squiggle. It helps to develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills necessary to hold a pencil.
  • Make letters out of play dough or write in shaving cream or in the sand.
  • Do fingerplays like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "Where is Thumpkin" to stimulate fine motor skills.
  • Use magnet letters on your refrigerator to write a message or their names.
  • Set up an area for your child to store and use pencils, crayons, washable markers or chalk.


Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children express themselves, put thoughts into words and understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences.

  • Encourage dramatic play by having your child tell a story using puppets or stuffed animals. Better yet, make your own puppets out of socks or paper bags.
  • Pretend to play real activities like running a restaurant or working at a fire station.
  • Act out the characters in a story such as animals, pirates or princesses.
  • Playing helps children put their thoughts into words. It also helps them understand that words can stand for objects (this box is a race car).
  • Make a book by clipping pictures from old magazines; your child can tell an imaginary tale using the photos you collect together.
  • Play matching and sorting games.