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Early Literacy

The time when you can do the most to help your child become a reader is during the early years — when they are first learning to read. You can help build their skills through everyday activities, and problems are much easier to correct if they are addressed early.

Click below for answers to the following early literacy questions:

Question 1: I am raising my children to be bilingual. What can I do to make them strong readers?
Question 2: What can I do now to make sure that my two year old will learn how to read?
Question 3: What is the best order in which to introduce letters and their corresponding sounds?
Question 4: What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?
Question 5: How can I help my preschooler with her writing skills?
Question 6: My daughter just started preschool and I have noticed that sometimes she writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?
Question 7: I would like to start teaching my 9-month old how to read, but he usually plays with books rather than reading them. How can I help him become a reader?
Question 8: What are some ways to help my daughter learn the names and sounds of letters? She is tired of simply using flashcards.
Question 9: My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?
Question 10: How can I help my son practice blending sounds as he reads?
Question 11: What types of books should I have available for my young reader? Do you have any specific book recommendations?
Question 12: What are the best things that parents and caregivers can do to help prepare their children to succeed on a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment — specifically in terms of early literacy?

Question:

I am raising my children to be bilingual. What can I do to make them strong readers?

Answer:

As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your children develop into good readers! You may already be taking the most important first steps by exposing them to books and by reading books with them. By keeping books within easy reach (such as in a basket on the floor), they can explore them when interested. If you don’t already do so, you may want to consider making a quiet time with books part of your children's daily routine. For example, you can read stories together right before naps or bedtime or after a bath. If reading stories becomes a consistent part of their daily routine, they will most likely come to expect, enjoy, and be calmed by this relaxing and intimate time that you share.

The following articles will give you ideas on ways to promote literacy and to share the joy of reading together:

By giving your children positive experiences with books, you are instilling in them a genuine, lifelong passion for reading and learning — a priceless gift! Please use the following link to find numerous resources about English Language learners. Many of these articles address the concerns of teaching bilingual students in all the academic areas.


Question:

What can I do now to make sure that my two year old will learn how to read?

Answer:

As a parent, you play a critical role in helping your child develop into a reader! The Reading Rockets website is all about reading. The following articles will give you ideas of ways to promote literacy and to share the joy of reading together:

Reading books should be a fun and enjoyable activity for both of you. Most importantly, by giving your child positive experiences with books, you are instilling in him a genuine, lifelong passion for reading and learning—a priceless gift!


Question:

What is the best order in which to introduce letters and their corresponding sounds?

Answer:

Many people feel that the most natural way to introduce the alphabet and the letter sounds is to go straight from A to Z, but there is a more logical and systematic way that introduces letters based on the type of sounds that they make. The following article suggests which letters to introduce first as well as activities that help students learn the phonemes:


Question:

What strategies and programs do you recommend for teaching phonics and early literacy skills to preschoolers?

Answer:

Although we can’t recommend specific reading programs, the following article lists the characteristics that all good reading programs should have:

These next articles will give you information about early reading instruction and suggestions for helping your students develop the interest and skills to become lifelong readers:

This last article is geared toward parents but offers ideas for fun games to play with your students:


Question:

How can I help my preschooler with her writing skills?

Answer:

The following articles will give you an idea of the types of skills that very young children should be demonstrating:

Incorporating reading and writing into everyday fun activities, such as reading a recipe and baking together, writing a grocery list, and sending notes to each other, is one of the best ways parents can help develop pre-literacy skills in their very young children. Allow your preschooler to scribble letters without correction, use letter magnets and stamps, and take dictation while she tells you her ideas. In this way, she will discover the joy, power, and practicality of literacy and will be inspired to learn more as she is ready.

The following articles may give you ideas of ways to encourage your child’s writing skills in playful, fun, and developmentally appropriate ways:

One of the most valuable gifts that you can give your child is to instill in her a love of reading and writing and a genuine curiosity and desire to learn. She will take this gift with her throughout her lifetime.


Question:

My daughter just started preschool and I have noticed that sometimes she writes letters backwards. Should I be concerned?

Answer:

Writing letters backwards is a normal part of developing writing skills in preschool. If you have other reasons to suspect dyslexia (like parents or relatives with dyslexia, or problems identifying sounds or learning to say the alphabet), you should continue to monitor her progress and document your observations in case you see signs of a bigger problem.

Keep practicing with her by doing fun writing activities at home, like writing a shopping list, or writing a letter to a relative. Most of her early mistakes will be part of the process of learning to write, so model the right way, but don't hold her to it too early! She is in an experimentation phase with this skill.

The Reading Rockets website has articles that may be of interest to you as you help your child learn to read, including sections on writing and developmental milestones.



Question:

I would like to start teaching my 9-month old how to read, but he usually plays with books rather than reading them. How can I help him become a reader?

Answer:

It is great that you want to help your child become a good reader! There are lots of ways to support these skills at every stage of his development.

At his age, he will probably not be holding books and noticing printed words. He is at a tactile stage, which means he will want to touch everything and explore his environment by putting objects in his mouth, throwing them, and otherwise conducting little experiments on his physical environment. This is normal and necessary for his development! (That's why board books are great for infants and toddlers.)

The way he will learn the proper way to use books is by watching you read and having early exposure to books. Keep reading with him, even if he doesn't really understand it, but don't force him to sit still or turn pages gracefully! He will begin to do this as he gets older.


Question:

What are some ways to help my daughter learn the names and sounds of letters? She is tired of simply using flashcards.

Answer:

There are several things you can do to help your child remain interested in learning her letters. Try using a multi-sensory approach. Your child may be a tactile learner instead of an auditory or visual learner, or she may just need a variety of sensory input to learn best. Help her to identify how each sound feels on her mouth. Use a mirror to help. For example your lips come together for /m/.

You may want to try coming up with a rhyme or song about each letter. Use alphabet magnets or alphabet cookie cutters with clay in lieu of flash cards. These activities may be more fun and engaging than flashcards and help your daughter develop her oral communication.

Use pictures. Give your child a picture (e.g. a cat) and have her sound out the name while placing marbles, drawing marks, or tapping her fingers for each of the individual sounds in the word (e.g., /c/.../a/.../t/ is composed of 3 sounds, thus the child would use 3 marbles, marks, or taps.) Stick with short words with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, like bat, top, pen, dad, etc. You can also clap or tap out the number of syllables in a word.


Question:

My child is having trouble identifying sight words. What can I do to help?

Answer:

There are many ways to help your child develop his reading skills. Sight words can be practiced using flashcards, which you can easily make at home using index cards. Use pictures, symbols and colors to help reinforce the word.

Adding fun activities like writing the words in shaving cream, in the sand, on a chalkboard, or using magnetic letters may be motivating for your young learner, and is a good way to help him feel the shape of the word.

Also, point to words in stories you are reading. Stop on a familiar sight word (like: the, that, this, and) so your child can fill in the word.


Question:

How can I help my son practice blending sounds as he reads?

Answer:

You can do a lot to help your child practice. One way is to use modeling to introduce these skills. As you read to your child, sound out some of the words before you say them completely. Also, you can make a game to practice blending. Give your child a picture (e.g. a cat) and have him sound out the name while placing marbles, drawing marks, or tapping their fingers for each of the individual sounds in the word (e.g., /c/.../a/.../t/ is composed of 3 sounds, thus the child would use 3 marbles, marks, or taps.) You can also practice counting syllables by clapping or using your fingers to tap out the number of different sounds, or phonemes, in a word.

Once he can do this, have him practice sliding the sounds together. Check out the following segment of our Launching Young Readers series which models this very skill:

As your child continues to develop as a reader, the best thing you can do as a parent is to support him and give him many opportunities to practice.


Question:

What types of books should I have available for my young reader? Do you have any specific book recommendations?

Answer:

To keep your child engaged with reading, you should keep a wide variety of books on hand, and make sure to include books on topics that interest him. In your book collection, keep books that your child currently enjoys so he can read them over and over again (repeat readings are great – they help kids feel comfortable with the story and begin "reading" it along with you!). You should also add new books regularly, and make them a little more advanced than his current collection. He will let you know – probably through a lack of interest – when a book is too difficult. Picture books are good because they allow you to point out words and help him begin to recognize letters and their associated sounds. Pictures also give clues to the story for young children who are just grappling with language–learning, but if he can follow the plot of a book without pictures, that's wonderful! The important thing is to go at his pace, but maintain a rich and varied literary environment.

For more information on reading to young children, check the following section of our site:

We also have a great list of recommended books for kids by theme, award winning books, etc. that you can order directly from amazon.com through our site.


Question:

What are the best things that parents and caregivers can do to help prepare their children to succeed on a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment — specifically in terms of early literacy?

Answer:

Reading Rockets has great videos on this topic. Roots of Reading Sounds & Symbols Toddling Toward Reading
"So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall." — Roald Dahl