Emergent Readers

April 6, 2023

It’s never too soon to start reading with your children! Children begin to learn speech and language skills from the day they are born. As children develop, they learn increasingly complex speech and language skills. During early speech and language development, children are also learning skills that are critical for emergent literacy skills. 

What is emergent literacy?

Early speech and language development, known as the emergent literacy stage, begins at birth and continues to the preschool years. During this time, children learn skills that are important for the development of literacy (reading and writing). Children begin to see and interact with various forms of print, for example, street signs, books, and magazines. Eventually, children are able to combine the skills they have learned about speaking and listening with what they know about print. Research has shown that children who enter school with weaker verbal abilities are much more likely to experience difficulties learning literacy skills than those who don’t.

Ways to develop emergent literacy skills

Make reading fun

  • Make sure both you and your child are having FUN!
  • Read with expression, pitching your voice higher or lower where it’s appropriate or using different voices for different characters.
  • Use puppets to help read and narrate the story.
  • Allow your child to choose the book he/she is interested in.
  • Let your child interrupt to ask questions or make comments.

Talk to Your Child

  • Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to his or her questions.
  • Tell stories and narratives with your child, especially ones with sequence.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, the park, and so on.

Play with language

  • Repeat your child’s strings of sounds (e.g., “dada dada, bababab”) and add to them.
  • As a game, take turns to see how many rhyming words you can think of together: hop, top, bop, mop, stop, drop, and flop.
  • After a child has become familiar with the rhyme, stop before the last word on the page and let the child say it.
  • Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling.  Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about his or her drawing and write down the words.

Read throughout the day

  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound).
  • Reread your child’s favorite books.
  • Focus your child’s attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Read nursery rhymes and other rhyming books.
  • Improvise!  You do not always need to read the words as they appear in the book. You can simply talk about the pictures with your child.
  • Reading can take place anywhere, anytime!  Integrate reading into daily routines and make reading a daily habit. This is an activity that you and your child can look forward to. Some ideas …
    • Start and end the day with books.
    • Read during snack or after snack.
    • Read during transition times.
    • Read while waiting for appointments.
    • Playbooks on CD in the car.
    • Read while waiting for your food in restaurants.

Point out print in your natural environment to your child

  • Draw your child’s attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers
  • There are words on food labels, billboards, words on the computer, names, signs, and more!

Visit your local library

  • Check out books.
  • Attend a read-aloud with a storyteller.

Use the Time Together Triangle

  • There is a balance between you, your child, and the book!
  • Read to your child: Make a commitment to reading to your child on a regular basis. Keep the routine, it will be something both you and your child will look forward to!
  • Read with your child: Make sure your child is interested in the book so that you are both engaged.
  • Let your child read to you: Encourage your child to help tell the story, even if he does not know how to read yet.

Is your child struggling with developing reading skills?  Contact us to find out more about how we can help you and your child.



Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading, and Writing Skills: Kindergarten Through Second Grade


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