Skip to main content
Multicultural group of preschool children sitting in a row

Developmental Milestones

Here are typical early literacy milestones for preschoolers. 


  • Enjoys listening to and talking about stories and books.
  • Knows how to hold a book and turn pages, and can identify the front and back covers
  • Understands that print carries a message, and that print is read in stories.
  • Participates in rhyming and alliteration games.
  • Makes attempts to “read.”
  • Identifies familiar signs and labels.
  • Can identify 10 or more alphabet letters, especially the letters in own name.
  • Begins to recognize beginning sounds in spoken words and other letter-sound matches.
  • Speech is understandable but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words such as hippopotamus.
  • Uses new vocabulary and grammar in their speech.
  • Has fun with language. Enjoys poems and recognizes language absurdities such as, “Is that an elephant on your head?”
  • Uses verbs that end in “ing,” such as walking or talking, and uses some irregular past tense verbs such as ran and fell.
  • Understands and follows oral directions.
  • Understands and recalls simple sequences of events in stories.
  • Understands complex questions, and can answer “why” questions.
  • Connects information and events in stories to life experiences.


  • “Writes” (scribbles) messages in letter-like shapes as part of playful activity.
  • Begins to draw more recognizable letters and knows to use letters to represent meaningful words — including their names or phrases such as “I love you.”
  • Calls attention to own writing: “Look at my story.”
  • Observes older kids and adults writing for a purpose and want to try it, too.

Free screeners

More on early literacy milestones