Early literacy skills

Early literacy skills

Early literacy skills

Your child is in the year before they start school and you might be thinking “what do the need to know to set them up in the best way to learn to read?” Below are the six early literacy skills that children need to know before they start school and learn to read.


Early literacy is everything a child knows about reading and writing before they can read or write.


1. Print motivation

Print motivation is when a child is interested in and enjoying books. This is important because when a child finds reading fun and enjoyable they will be more motivated to learn to read themselves, even when it gets HARD (this will be often, learning to read and write is a new skill and it’s challenging to learn something new!). We want to make reading books a positive experience for our kids from the beginning. Some things you can do to help build this skill include:

  • Have fun! Do silly voices, make it engaging for your child
  • Read books that you both like. You can also let your child choose the books you read to keep them interested
  • Don’t be afraid to stop or change how you read books when it’s no longer fun. You don’t need to read for a certain length of time, focus on keeping it enjoyable instead


2. Print awareness

Print awareness is when your child notices print everywhere, knows how to hold a book and knows that they need to follow the words on the page when reading. This is important because a child needs to be aware of words and how books work before they will start to read. When kids understand how books work, where to start and how to turn the pages then they can start to focus on what the letters mean. To help develop this skill you can:

  • Point to words as you read them
  • Let your child turn the pages
  • Read books that your child can hold
  • Talk about different kinds of print (signs, labels, lists)


3. Letter knowledge

Letter knowledge is knowing that letters are different from each other, knowing letter names and sounds and recognising letters everywhere (this may start with your child recognising the letter their name starts with). This is important because a child needs to know that a word is made up of individual letters. To help grow this skill, you can:

  • Look at and talk about different shapes (letters are based on shapes)
  • Play “same and different” type games
  • Look at “I Spy” type books
  • Notice different types of letters (“a” or “A”) on signs and in books
  • Read ABC books
  • Talk about and draw the letters of a child’s own name


4. Vocabulary

“Vocabulary” is knowing what different words mean. Having a wide vocabulary is important because it is much easier for a child to read words that they already know. They can recognise what they are sounding out and they are more likely to remain engaged in the book because they understand what is happening. To build a child’s vocabulary, you can:

  • Have lots of conversations with children
  • Explain the meanings of new words
  • Read books! Picture books use a different vocabulary than casual spoken conversation


5. Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the knowledge that words are made up of sounds. A child who is developing their phonological awareness is learning how to hear and play with these smaller sounds in words. This is important because a child needs to know that words are made of individual sounds in order to sound out a word when reading. Some examples of phonological awareness include: recognising when words start or end with the same sound, identifying syllables and knowing when two words rhyme. To help develop phonological awareness skills, you can:

  • Sing songs; most break words up into one syllable per note. Reading works with syllables also
  • Recite rhymes; rhymes depend upon ending sounds
  • Play with tongue twisters
  • Pick a sound for the day. Notice it at the beginning of words and at the end of words
  • Play iSpy with the beginning sound of words rather than the letter


6. Narrative skills

Narrative skills are the ability to describe things and events, tell storing, know the order of events and make predictions. Having narrative skills is important because it shows a child understands/comprehends what they are reading when they can describe something or retell a story. This will keep their motivation. To keep building a child’s narrative skills, you can:

  • Read stories without words
  • Name objects, feelings, and events
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversations rather than questions that can be answered with a yes/no
  • Talk about your day and the events that happened
  • Mix up the events in a story; make it silly!
  • Guess what comes next or change the ending


Learn more about speech pathology or a speech therapy for kids today!