Encouraging early literacy for little ones

Encouraging early literacy (pre-reading and pre-writing) skills can be developed through every day experiences and play.

Being able to recite the alphabet or write their name doesn’t always mean a child will be able to pick up these skills quickly at school, pre-primary or even kindergarten.

IN fact, a lot of different things have to click in order for reading and writing to progress

Before a child learns to read and write they need to develop the building blocks for literacy. Learning to read and write is a process that starts from birth and is continually refined throughout life.

But it’s not something that needs to be formally taught to babies and pre-school aged children.

Early literacy skills develop during a child’s early years of life through learning to speak, listening, understanding, watching, scribbling and drawing.

As they grow, they begin to discover that spoken words can be written down and they will start to make the connection between letters on the page and spoken sounds.

So what do children need to become successful readers and writers? 

  • Oral language ability (speaking and listening skills) – wide vocabulary, comprehension of conversation and stories  
  • Sound awareness (phonological awareness) – being able to identify and manipulate sounds 
  • Letter recognition – being able to recognise letters in their name
  • Understanding basic concepts of reading and writing texts  
  • Experience in environments that encourage literacy – books in the home, drawing attention to print in the everyday world, and use of reading and writing in everyday life 
  • Visual perceptual skills – being able to make sense of and remember what they can see, visually processing colours, shapes and patterns 
  • Fine motor and eye-hand coordination skills 

Children need all of these things and will pick them up at different stages.

How can we help our children develop these skills?

It takes time to build the foundations of these skills and the best way for children to learn of course is through lots of play and interaction during their pre-school years!

Everyday activities and play offer a multitude of ways to encourage early literacy.

It can be as simple as having a conversation, singing a nursery rhyme or action song, playing a rhyming game, sharing a story, writing a shopping list or following written instructions, e.g. recipes. 

Opportunities for playfully preparing for reading and writing can be anywhere and anytime.  Playgroup is an ideal environment for fun shared learning experiences.

The activities should be enjoyable, playful, fun and encourage children’s active involvement at their level.  

Flash cards and worksheets are not fun! Above all, remember – play is meant to be fun!  

Little things…It’s important to remember to not get anxious if your child isn’t interested in certain activities.

Lots of activities and ideas are readily adapted to the sand pit, with blocks, a train set and even ride on cars – pretty much whatever your child loves to play with.

Just use opportunities as they come along to encourage your child to have a go at something new. And if you attend playgroup, be sure to have a variety of activities and play materials available over the course of the year.  

For more, read our Best Activities to Encourage Oral Language Development and Best Activities to Playfully Encourage Pre-Writing Skills blogs.