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Developing Early Literacy Skills in Your Child

Updated on February 28, 2015

Literacy Skills Begin at Home

According to the National Governors Association, one out of every three kindergarteners comes to school unprepared to learn. Children who have not been exposed to books or print are not prepared to learn how to read, and they have a harder time grasping basic literacy skills. The Reading Foundation states that 85 percent of all academic curriculum is delivered through text; as a result, children who have difficulty reading will have problems in all academic areas throughout their school career.

Literacy development begins long before the child enters the classroom. Early positive experiences in reading and writing can make the difference between academic success and failure in school. You can encourage early literacy in your child by sharing reading time, by keeping books and other printed materials in the home, and by making your child aware of print in the environment.

Read To Your Child

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to read to your child. Children gain a number of skills from this simple experience. First, they learn that words can be transmitted into print and that the text carries meaning. Secondly, they learn book-handling skills. They learn that print is read from left to right and from top to bottom, that there are spaces between words, and that sentences end with punctuation. You can help your child master these necessary skills by tracking the text with your finger as you read the words, as well as by answering his or her questions.

Another way that you can help your child develop literacy skills is by commenting on events that are happening in the story. For instance, a child can learn prediction skills if you stop at an important place in the story and ask the child, “What do you think will happen next?” You can also teach retelling skills by asking the child questions about the story before, during and after the reading or by having your child tell you what happened in the story after the reading.

Reading to your child accomplishes far more than teaching them physical literacy skills. Children whose parents read to them are more likely to enjoy reading later in life. Spending time with you makes your child feel safe, secure and loved, and if you read to your child, he or she will associate those same feelings with reading and will develop a love for literacy.

Making a Literacy-Rich Home

Children who have access to books are more prepared to become readers when they enter kindergarten. Provide your child with an assortment of colorful, age-appropriate books. Picture books, which have images but no text, are useful for teaching basic book-handling skills as well as teaching powers of observation. Children's story books should have large, simple print and colorful images. Some parents are deterred by the price of children's books. If this is the case, second-hand stores and garage sales usually have a wide assortment of books that children have outgrown; these books are usually available at much lower prices than the materials in big-box stores. Educational videos and computer software are also valuable tools for teaching early literacy skills.

Environmental Print

Print is not relegated to books. The environment is filled with print, from street signs to cereal boxes. Children learn the importance of literacy by watching their parents pay bills, read ingredient lists and follow street signs. You can help your child to recognize words and letters by pointing out signs while on the road, by reading captions or headlines on television, or by reading food labels inside a grocery store. Allowing the child to complete simple activities like checking items off of a grocery list can make him or her more aware of the literate world.

Preparing your child for kindergarten is one of the most important things you can do for your child's future academic success. Providing your child with early literacy experiences such as sharing reading time, providing books and making him or her aware of print in the environment can make the difference between success and failure later on in his or her school career.


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