Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Every Child Ready to Read, a national early literacy initiative, has identified six skills that every child needs in order to become ready to read:
- Letter Knowledge is knowing that letters are different from each other and have different names and sounds; this skill begins with the concepts of “same and different” and basic shapes. Look for books that focus on the letter sounds, names and shapes.
- Narrative Skill is the ability to describe things and events and tell stories, which helps a child understand the meaning of what he or she is reading. Good narrative skills lead to good reading comprehension. Look for books that encourage dialogue, storytelling, guessing what comes next.
- Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words. Being able to differentiate the sounds that make up words will help children sound out words when they begin to read. Look for books with rhythm, rhymes, and language play.
- Print Awareness is understanding the role of print in our culture; knowing how to handle a book, how we follow the words on a page. All books support print awareness.
- Vocabulary is knowing the names of things, both tangible and intangible (feelings, emotions). Children need to know the meaning of words in order to understand what they are reading and to be able to sound out words when they read. Look for books with language that is unusual, extraordinary, or specific.
- Print Motivation is a child’s interest in and enjoyment of books. Children who enjoy reading are curious about how to read and will want to read more. Look for books that are fun!
Tips for Reading with Young Children
Have Fun: Use different voices, motions, facial expressions, songs, and props to bring the story to life.
Snuggle Up: Hold your child in your lap or next to you. Include a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or other comfort item.
Talk About It: Point out things in the pictures. Ask your child questions about the pictures and story.
Stay Flexible: It’s okay to skip pages, read back to front, just look at pictures, or not finish a book. You can also read aloud while your child plays with other toys.
Be Prepared: Keep books close at hand—throughout your home, in the diaper bag, in the car—for sharing anytime. A few minutes throughout the day add up to a big benefit for your child.
Repeat Favorites: Children love to hear their favorite stories over and over again—and the repetition helps them gain important literacy skills.
Record Your Success: Log your reading and stop in for fun surprises when you reach milestones!