As children learn to talk, they develop speech and language skills that allow them to understand what others say to them and to express their wants, thoughts and feelings. At the same time, they are becoming more and more aware of the printed word. They begin to learn skills that are important to the development of literacy. This stage of early speech and language development, known and emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool years. Children see and interact with print in everyday situations, at home, in preschool and at daycare, well before they start elementary school. Parents can see their child’s growing appreciation and enjoyment of print as he or she begins to recognize words that rhyme, scribble with crayons and point out logos and street signs. Gradually, children combine what they know about print and become ready to learn to read and write.
How Reading Develops
8 Months – One Year
- Looks at pictures in books for a short time when you name them.
- Likes to hear you tell and read stories.
One – Two Years
- Makes sounds when looking at pictures in books.
- Makes sounds or sings along with songs and rhymes.
- Points or touches pictures in books when you name them.
- Turns pages in a book; may turn more than one page at a time.
- Listens to simple stories for a short time.
- Starts to name colorful pictures in books.
Two – Three Years
- Knows that words have meaning and are used for different reasons.
- Starts to name black and white pictures.
- Points to and names many common pictures in books.
- Enjoys rhymes.
- Enjoys having favorite books read over and over again.
- Likes to listen to books that repeat words and phrases.
- Starts to sit alone and look at books.
- Turns pages one at a time.
- Knows that books have a front and back.
- Knows how to open and hold books.
- Knows the direction of words in books left to right.
- Listens and enjoys when you read for 5- 15 minutes.
Three – Four Years
- Recognizes and may say familiar words, like restaurant signs, names on cereal boxes and street signs.
- Pretends to read books by: holding the book/turning the pages/saying some words.
- Says some of the words in a story or book.
- Recognizes and may say words that rhyme (bat-cat, fun-run) and words that begin with the same sound (big, boy, ball).
Four – Five Years
- Says rhyming words and words that begin with the same sound.
- Understands that you are reading words and not just talking about pictures in books.
- Recognizes where words start and stop by pointing to spaces between words.
- Pretends to read a book by telling the story from memory.
Five – Six Years
- Realizes that words can be broken into smaller parts, like ba-by, cup-cake, rainbow, or counts syllables in a word.
- Names printed letters in the alphabet from A to Z and numbers from 1 to 10.
- May know that letters have sounds and may know the sound that some letters make like buh for B and sss for S.
- Says first sounds in spoken words, like ball begins with b sound.
- Begins to point to specific letters on a page.
- May read some unfamiliar words.
How Writing Develops
One – Two Years
- Holds a large marker or crayon.
- May scribble, especially when you are writing too.
Two – Three Years
- Writes by drawing and scribbling.
- Scribbles using wavy lines and circles.
Three – Five Years
- Starts to scribble letters, numbers or pretend letters, wavy lines and squiggles.
- Prints some large uppercase letters like A, B, C.
- Know that drawing and writing are different.
- Copies simple lines, shapes or crosses.
- Know that people write for a reason.
- Writes one letter or word to stand for a whole sentence or idea.
Prints first name, some letters of the alphabet and numbers.
- Writes letters in no set order like A, z, E, u, x, R.
Five – Six Years
- Uses one to three letters to spell words, like p for purple, tn for train, or pte for pretty.
- Spells words as they sounds like letl for little and egl for eagle.
Babies and Toddlers: Reading and Writing Tips
- Talk to your child about objects in the room, people and what you are doing. Talking gets your child ready to read and write.
- Repeat the sounds your child makes, like dada, baba. Add more sounds and words.
- Tell your child stories.
- Read to your child whenever you can. Read picture books with sounds and rhymes.
- Read food boxes and words on T. V. Look at magazines together.
- Read your child’s favorite books over and over again.
- Give your child crayons, markers, and paper for scribbling and drawing.
- Point to words and pictures as you read.
- Teach new words during special times like holidays or visits to places like the zoo.
Preschool (3-5 years) Reading Tips
- Talk about what you are going to do, what you are doing and what you did. Talking helps your child learn the words for reading and writing.
- Show your child printed words that are all around you, like street signs, cereal boxes and restaurant signs.
- Go to the library and help your child pick out books.
- Hang alphabet letters where your child can see them. Name the letters and ask your child to say them too.
- Sing songs and read books that have rhymes.
- Talk about the books newspapers and magazines you are reading.
- Talk about looking for a phone number, following a recipe, reading board game rules, or reading text messages.
When you are reading with your child:
- Point to words.
- Talk about the printed words like “this word starts with a “p” and this one ends with a “p”.
- Ask your child questions. Ask about what just happened and what might happen next.
- Read different types of books like fairy tales, nursery rhymes, alphabet books, picture books and poems.
- Read books that repeat words and phrases.
- Play guessing games with sounds and words like “I’m thinking of a word that begins with “b”, can you think of one?”
Preschool (3-5) Writing Tips
- Give your child pencils, crayons, markers, sidewalk chalk, paints, paper, magnetic letters, or wooden blocks with letters. Let your child have time every day to scribble, draw or write.
- Show your child how you sign your name, write thank-you notes, send text messages, emails, write out grocery lists and pay bills.
- Help your child with skills needed for writing. Art activities, puzzles and bead stringing can help with coordination.
- Write your child’s name on pictures and drawings. Say the letters out loud.
- Ask your child to tell a story about a drawing. Write the words, or ask your child to write the words. Don’t worry about spelling.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2010). “Getting Your Child Ready for Reading and Writing”. Available at www.asha.org/slp/schools. Reprinted by permission.