A child's ability to read and write begins to develop long before entering Kindergarten. Infancy through age eight is the most important time in a child's literacy development as they learn and develop the skills needed to be successful in school and later in life.
Most children learn to read at around age six or seven, some children learn to read at age five, and a few at age four. In order for children to develop healthy dispositions toward reading and literacy, experiences in the early years must engage children actively in the process of learning.
Early Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually read and write.
Research shows that children arriving at school with the following early literacy skills are more likely to be successful in learning to read and write.
Vocabulary Development -- Knowing the names of things
Narrative Skills -- Being able to describe things, events, and tell stories
Letter Knowledge -- Understanding that each letter is unique and has a name and sound
Print Awareness -- Experience with different forms of print; knowledge of how to handle books and how to follow words across a page
Print Motivation -- Interest in and enjoyment from books
Phonological Awareness -- Ability to hear and play with the small sounds that make up words
What You Can Do at Home
Family members play a fundamental role in helping their children develop early literacy skills. You are your child's first teacher. Every time you interact with your child, he or she learns about communicating, listening, and working with others. Make the most of everyday moments by talking to your child about what is happening (narrate the experience) and asking open-ended questions.
Families do things together and children learn best by doing things.
Show your child that reading is a year-round activity by making reading fun and interesting. Let your child see you read. If your child views reading as a pleasant and relaxed activity, chances are he or she will be eager to read on his or her own.
See our suggestions for what you can do at home with your child:
Children at age 2-4 are in an exciting stage of language development. They repeat and imitate what others say, understand more when spoken to, and begin to put words together into short phrases. Vocabulary development and comprehension are most important at this stage.
Help your child learn language in a meaningful context by talking to her about what she is doing.
Acknowledge your child's use of language by repeating the words and phrases he says.
Help your child learn how to build on language she knows by expanding her words into phrases and sentences.
Help your child learn the names of things by labeling objects in his environment.
Help develop your child's vocabulary by reading a wide variety of books together.
Encourage your child to talk and express ideas by engaging him in conversations.
Model good communication skills by listening attentively and responding purposefully to your child.
Expand your child's vocabulary by demonstrating how to add new words to familiar ones to make phrases and short sentences.
Select books that contain movements and sounds your child can imitate or that introduce concepts such as colors, counting, and shapes.
Use speech that is clear and simple for your child to model.