Literacy for Young Children

It is essential for parents to provide young children with as much exposure to reading and writing as possible. Children who are exposed to print frequently are more likely to develop emergent literacy skills that pave the way to early reading and writing in kindergarten and first grade. Because reading is the foundation for future learning in all subject areas, children who struggle to read will often fall behind their peers in multiple subjects By fostering emergent literacy skills, you can help give your child the tools he or she needs to become a skilled reader and writer.

So, this poses the question: What can I do as a parent to target emergent literacy skills?

Parents should focus on teaching emergent literacy skills before formal reading instruction. These early reading skills start to develop in infancy and early childhood through interactions with adults in meaningful activities involving talking and print. Below, I have listed some emergent literacy skills that parents can start to target with their infants or toddlers:


Use rich language models during play activities to help build verbal vocabulary repertoire.


Show your child how to hold a book the right way, ask your child where you should start reading (do they point to pictures or words?), have your child help track print from left to right, point to book titles, etc.


Draw your child’s awareness to words and print within his daily life. For example, you can read signs, labels on cereal boxes, or logos of different sports teams together.


Begin to introduce letters, especially common letters such as those in your child’s name. You can work on teaching the sounds that go with different letters.


Have your child blend sounds into words. For example, you can provide the letter sounds b-a-t and have your child guess the word ‘bat.’


Encourage your child to open up books and pretend he is reading the words on the pages. He may even point to words while he reads or attempts to retell a familiar story.


Encourage your child to use pens or pencils to ‘write’ his name, help make a grocery list, or compose a note to a family member. Early writing may look like strings of scribbles but as your child develops he will likely mix in letter-like symbols and eventually write actual letters.

(Information adapted from Beth M. Phillips, Ph.D., Florida Center for Reading Research @ FSU)

It’s never too early to start getting kids excited about reading books. Parents play a critical role in a child’s reading success! A love of books leads to a love of learning.