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Building Foundations: Nurturing Early Literacy

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Originally Posted On:–news/building-foundations-nurturing-early-literacy


The ongoing discussion about school dropout rates nationwide has focused more attention on the importance of quality early childhood education, specifically early literacy.

For parents and educators, grasping this critical stage in child development is essential for supporting your child’s academic success and well-being.

Reading to your child or involving them in essential reading and writing activities helps prepare them for school and academic success.

What We Understand About Early Literacy Development

Literacy development starts early in life and is highly correlated with school achievement.
As children grow, their literacy skills develop. This growth starts with cooing and babbling in infancy and continues through forming structured sentences in preschool.

Literacy development is a transformational journey that enables individuals to achieve more than just decoding words on a page; it unlocks the ability to comprehend, engage with, and convey complex ideas through language.

This foundational process of acquiring and refining reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills is pivotal for dynamic communication and opens doors for participation in all aspects of society.
From early childhood, children dip their toes into the world of literacy as they begin to recognize letters and their corresponding sounds.

They gradually wade into deeper waters of understanding through various literacy milestones, from deciphering simple three-letter words to navigating the intricate structure of sentences and stories or solving math problems.

Reading comprehension and the capacity for nuanced writing are like waves built upon a solid base of these early pre-literacy skills.

A strong literacy foundation is anchored in importance. It charts a course that can influence educational trajectories, career pathways, and even individual well-being.

Beyond the mechanics of reading and writing, literacy embodies the critical analysis of information and the articulate expression of thoughts.

As everything starts early, reading out loud to your child and working on simple letter and word recognition and comprehension will help them develop and nurture literacy skills.

Remember, literacy for a young child is not only intellectual. It is also physical. The emotional bonds they form, the physical manipulation of books and writing tools, and cognitive engagement with stories and letters all fuel literacy development.

Many studies show that children with limited exposure to language and literacy may struggle more when learning to read.

This does not mean that learning and mastering literacy is impossible at an older age; it means that the task may be harder and more stressful and will impact them elsewhere, too. How can you succeed in math if you cannot comprehend what you are requested to do?

Therefore, it is important to start providing these skills from the very beginning. Although each age group plays a crucial role in this process, what you do from infancy to kindergarten extensively prepares the groundwork.

The Pillars of Early Literacy Success

We discussed how reading is a fundamental skill for any child’s development, and in the preschool years, it lays the groundwork for a lifetime of literacy.

This grand endeavor begins with parents, the first and most influential teachers a child will have.

​Nurturing literacy at a young age sets the stage for a child’s success in reading, academics, and, ultimately, life. But where does one begin to instill the love of reading and the skills necessary to do so?

Understanding The Building Blocks of Early Literacy

Before a child can read, they must first understand that the squiggles on a page have meaning. This foundational understanding is built on several ‘pillars’ of literacy development:

  • Phonological awareness: The ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken language.


  • Print awareness: Understanding that print has meaning and is typically organized on a page in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom fashion.

  • Vocabulary: A growing repertoire of words allows children to comprehend and discuss reading materials.

  • Narrative skills: The ability to understand and tell stories coherently and engagingly.

  • Letter knowledge and phonics: Recognizing letters and the sounds they make which is often the first step in learning to read.

Focusing on these pillars will prepare your child for success in reading and education. Immerse Your Child in a Literate Environment
For young children to excel at reading, their environment must encourage and model literacy. Here are five ways to create a space that fosters early literacy:

1. Regular Reading Routine
Establish a daily reading routine, such as reading a story together at bedtime or during meals. Consistency helps children expect and enjoy reading time, normalizing it as a part of their everyday life.

2. Make Books Accessible
Ensure that your child can easily reach books. Having a variety of books within their grasp invites exploration and discovery.

3. Create a Literacy-Rich Home
Label items around the house to introduce print awareness, and hang children’s artwork with stories they’ve told you to promote the understanding that their words and ideas are valuable.

4. Celebrate Reading Achievements
When your child reaches a reading milestone, celebrate it! This could be as small as recognizing a frequently seen word or sounding out a simple word for the first time.

5. Incorporate Writing
Encourage scribbling and drawing as precursors to writing. Provide materials and opportunities for your child to express themselves through written forms as well.

Interactive Reading and Conversation
Reading with your child is more than just reciting words on a page. It’s an opportunity for multi-layered interaction that enhances comprehension and enjoyment of the reading experience.

Ask Questions
Encourage your child to think critically about the stories you read together. What do they think will happen next? Why did a character act in a certain way?

Connect to Real-Life Experiences
Relate stories to your child’s own life. If the story involves a visit to a zoo, talk about their experiences at a zoo or use it as a springboard for a future visit.

Read with Expression
Use different tones and tempos to match the mood of the story. This makes the reading more engaging and shows the expressive side of language.

Encourage Retelling
After reading a book several times, ask your child to tell the story to you. This practice builds their narrative skills and reinforces the understanding that stories have a beginning, middle, and end.

Introducing Sight Words and Phonics
Understanding sight words (high-frequency words that children recognize by sight, not by sounding them out) and phonics (the relationship between sounds and letters) is pivotal in learning to read.

Sight Word Recognition
Introduce common sight words by writing them on cards or finding them within stories you read together. The more they see these words, the quicker they’ll recognize them.

Phonics Games
Make learning phonics fun with games like “I Spy” or scavenger hunts, where your child looks for objects that start with a specific letter sound.

Interactive Storytelling
To make it a collaborative learning process, create stories together, using sight words and phonics patterns that are being learned.

Technology and Literacy
Technology can be a valuable ally in promoting early literacy in today’s digitized world. Numerous apps and online resources are designed to support your child’s reading readiness.

E-Books and Read-Along Apps
Interactive e-books with audio can be used to read along and allow your child to interact with the story, reinforcing the connection between spoken and written words.

Educational Apps and Websites
Seek out apps and websites that offer phonics games, sight word recognition, and other literacy-building activities. Many are designed with vibrant, engaging interfaces that appeal to young children.

Screen Time Guidelines
Balance is key. While certain screen activities can be educational and beneficial, it’s essential to set limits and ensure they complement, not replace, hands-on reading experiences.

Community and Reading Enrichment
Support from the community helps to reinforce the importance of reading.

Library Visits
Regular trips to the library introduce your child to a wide variety of reading materials and can instill a love of books and learning.

Storytime Sessions
Participate in library or bookstore storytime events where children can listen to stories, interact with others, and learn that reading is a social and enjoyable activity.

Join Parent-Child Book Clubs
Book clubs offer you and your child a chance to engage with literature in a social setting, discussing books and sharing your love for reading.

The Role of Patience and Positivity
Learning to read unfolds at an individual pace. It is crucial to remain patient and positive throughout your child’s literacy journey.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset
Encourage your child to see themselves as learners who can improve with effort. This growth mindset is especially important in more challenging aspects of reading.

Provide Encouragement
Be praiseful, especially when your child grapples with difficult reading tasks. Positive reinforcement bolsters self-esteem and motivation.

Model Reading
Your child learns by example. Regularly engage in your reading activities, whether it’s books, magazines, or the news. Demonstrating that reading is a lifelong habit sets a powerful example.

In Conclusion

Early literacy skills are the stepping stones to a child’s lifelong relationship with reading and learning.

By focusing on the pillars detailed above, parents can provide the support and structure for their child to grow into a confident and capable reader.

Remember, the goal is not just for your child to read but to love reading—to be excited by the worlds that open up to them through the printed word.

With your guidance and commitment, the foundations for such a love can be laid in these critical and formative preschool years.

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