While children grow and develop, their language grows with them. As their language develops, so do their literacy skills! Literacy encompasses reading and writing, and your little one may be developing these skills without you even realizing it.
The first stage of literacy development is known as emergent literacy, which typically lasts from birth to three years old. During this stage, children begin interacting with print materials (such as books and magazines) in their daily environment. This interaction allows children to learn essential literacy skills, including print awareness, rhyming, letter recognition, drawing, and showing an overall interest in books and printed materials.
Emergent literacy skills are intertwined with spoken language skills, and they both build off of each other. The language your little one learns throughout their preschool years sets them up to read and write during their elementary years. If a child’s language skills are delayed, their literacy skills can be impacted. There are some signs that can indicate difficulty with later reading and writing skills, which include a disinterest in shared storybook reading, persistent baby talk, difficulty following and understanding simple directions, and failure to recognize the letters in his or her name. To help combat this, here are some helpful tips to incorporate at home to build both language and literacy:
- Talk to your child during their daily routines: children thrive off of predictable routines. When you talk to them about the things they’re doing in their routines (such as snack time, brushing teeth, or getting ready for bed), you’re providing them with rich language input to help build their overall vocabulary.
- Introduce new vocabulary words frequently: the holiday season is here, which is a perfect time to start exposing your child to new vocabulary! You could discuss thanksgiving vocabulary, such as pilgrim, harvest, and feast to bolster their vocabulary.
- Incorporate singing and nursery rhymes into your daily routines: there is no better way for a child to learn how to rhyme than being exposed to multiple rhyming words! Songs are engaging and fun for children and help their language development exponentially.
- Read books with fun rhymes and alliterations: there’s no question why children love Dr. Seuss books—they’re fun to listen to! Hearing the rhymes and different sounds in these books is helpful for children to develop those skills themselves.
- Talk about the pictures in a book: although reading books is great, discussing the pictures on each page is essential for developing language and literacy skills. The pictures are fun to look at, and research has shown us that children listen and receive more language input regarding the pictures and objects they’re interested in!
If you suspect your child’s language or literacy might be behind in development, our Developmental Checklist is a great place to start. It is recommended you bring them to a Speech-Language Pathologist, who will conduct a thorough evaluation, recommend therapy if it’s warranted, and provide other tools and tips to incorporate at home!
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2016). Emergent Literacy for People with Special Communication Needs. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/emergent-literacy/