Literacy Accomplishments: Birth to Three Years Old

The Committee for the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children has compiled detailed lists of literacy accomplishments for children of different ages. Find out what the typical child can do from birth through age three, from three to four, and in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades.

Below are highlights of typical literacy acquisition, supported by decades of research. The timing of these accomplishments depends on maturational and experiential differences among children, as well as the curriculum provided by a school.

  • Recognizes specific books by cover.
  • Pretends to read books.
  • Understands that books are handled in particular ways.
  • Enters into a book-sharing routine with primary caregivers.
  • Vocalization play in crib gives way to enjoyment of rhyming language, nonsense word play, etc.
  • Labels objects in books.
  • Comments on characters in books.
  • Looks at picture in book and realizes it is a symbol for real object.
  • Listens to stories.
  • Requests/commands adult to read or write.
  • May begin attending to specific print such as letters in names.
  • Uses increasingly purposive scribbling.
  • Occasionally seems to distinguish between drawing and writing.
  • Produces some letter-like forms and scribbles with some features of English writing.

Excerpted from: Snow, C. E., Burns, S. M., & Griffin, P. Editors. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of National Academy Press. Reprinted with permission.

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