Literacy Development in Children

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The benefits of physical activity for a person’s health and longevity are well documented. However, not everyone is aware of the many health benefits of the most common form of mental exercise: reading.

For children, literacy development provides benefits that begin immediately and last a lifetime.

The importance of early literacy development to a child’s success in school and life can’t be understated. Even though the literacy rate in the U.S. is 99%, researchers estimate that 43 million U.S. adults have low literacy skills that impair their cognitive abilities. Introducing children to books and reading from their first months of life prepares them to succeed in school while also strengthening family bonds and promoting children’s health and well-being for a lifetime.

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What Is Literacy Development?

Literacy development is the process of learning words, sounds, and language. The acquisition of early literacy skills begins in a child’s first year, when infants begin to discriminate, encode, and manipulate the sound structures of language, an ability called phonological awareness.

It’s important to assess a child’s language skills at an early age, because delays in literacy development could indicate a language or reading disorder. Research has shown that languages with consistent sound-to-letter correspondences, or orthographic consistency, are easier for children to learn.

Encouraging Communication and Reading Skills

Reading-related activities in the child’s home are key to early literacy development. These activities include joint reading, drawing, singing, storytelling, game playing, and rhyming.

Using Childhood Literacy to Treat Communication Disorders

While nearly all children experience problems with a few language sounds, words, or syntax, some children struggle to reach literacy milestones that are common for their age group. These are among the language problems that young children may encounter:

Some language development problems relate to hearing loss, so children experiencing language problems should have their hearing checked. Speech language pathologists are able to help children overcome language learning difficulties; they also help parents, caregivers, and teachers overcome language learning difficulties in children. Children under the age of 3 who appear to have problems with literacy development may qualify for state early intervention programs that help them develop cognitive, communication, and other skills.

Language and Literacy Development in Children

How children develop language skills and become literate are two separate but closely related processes:

These are the components of language and literacy development programs for young children:

At this stage, the child focuses on communication and language from others, understanding, and responding. The four aspects of attending and understanding are knowseedo, and improve:

Communicating and Speaking

Early communication efforts by infants and toddlers focus on what the child wants or needs through facial expressions, gestures, and verbalization. The child engages with others using increasingly complex language and initiates interactions with others verbally and nonverbally to learn and gain information. Preschoolers learn to vary the amount of information they communicate as dictated by the situation. They begin to understand, follow, and comply with the rules of conversation and social interaction.


Through their interactions with others, infants and toddlers learn new words and begin to use them to communicate and respond. The parent or caregiver shows an object or action and repeats its name, and also demonstrates words that express feelings and desires. Preschool children learn how to use a wider range of words in various settings and with shades of meaning in specific situations. They also begin to categorize words and understand relationships between words. When engaging children in conversation, the person takes every opportunity to introduce new words to the child that relate to the topic and setting.

Emergent Literacy

The earliest stages of literacy for infants and toddlers is their repetition and use of rhymes, phrases, and song refrains. They begin to physically handle books and understand that they’re the source of stories and information. Children start to recognize pictures, symbols, signs, and basic words; understand what pictures and stories mean; and make marks that represent objects and actions.

Phonological Awareness

Preschoolers begin to understand that language is composed of discrete sound elements that have their own meaning. Singing songs, playing word games, and reading stories and poetry aloud help make children aware of phonological distinctions in the words, phrases, and sentences they’re using. Through wordplay, such as being called by name with the separate sounds of the name highlighted, children become aware of the individual sounds that make up words.

Print and Alphabet Knowledge

Preschoolers begin to show that they understand how printing is used and the rules that apply to print. They can identify individual letters and associate the correct sounds to the letters. The parent or caregiver can draw attention to the features of printed letters and show children different print types, such as those used in menus, brochures, and magazines. The person can emphasize the relationship between letters and sounds. Reading alphabet books together helps children connect a letter with words that use the letter and pictures of the objects.

Comprehension and Text Structure

By hearing and reading stories, preschoolers begin to comprehend the narrative structure of storytelling and start to ask questions about and comment on the stories. Children are introduced to stories by reading aloud together, and after several rereadings, they’re able to recall its plot, characters, and events. They’re also able to retell the story using puppets and other props related to the book, as well as through their own illustrations and writing.


Preschoolers can be introduced to writing as a way to describe in their own words a story or an event, such as preparing a shopping list before going to the grocery store. They can also be asked to write captions for pictures and photographs. Children can be taught the proper spacing of words by writing each word of a sentence on a separate piece of paper. Drawing helps children develop the motor skills required for writing; in place of a pencil or crayon, they can be encouraged to write using their finger or a stick to write in sand or dirt.

5 Literacy Development Stages

Early literacy typically occurs in a child’s first three years, when the child is introduced to books, stories, and writing tools (paper, pencils, etc.). Children learn language, reading, and writing skills simultaneously, in part through their experiences and interactions with others. Parents and caregivers can encourage early literacy development stages through various activities:

The goal of early literacy efforts isn’t to teach children to read at a very young age but rather to prepare them for each stage of literacy development, from earliest image recognition through reading fluency at ages 11 to 14. The five stages of literacy development are emergent literacy, alphabetic fluency, words and patterns, intermediate reading, and advanced reading.

1. Emergent Literacy

The initial stage of literacy development sees children acquire literacy skills in informal settings before their formal schooling begins. This preliterate phase lasts until children are 5 or 6 years old and is characterized by specific pre-reading behaviors:

At later ages in this stage, children may recognize and be able to write the letters in their names, distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters, and identify an increasing number of high-frequency words.

2. Alphabetic Fluency

At this novice reader stage, children between the ages of 5 and 8 begin to recognize relationships between letters and sounds. These activities are typically observed during this phase of literacy development:

3. Words and Patterns

During this transitional stage that occurs from ages 7 to 9, children’s reading fluency improves, and children begin to recognize syllables and phonemes rather than simply individual letters. Children in this decoding reader phase have reading vocabularies of up to 3,000 words. Behaviors in this stage include the following:

4. Intermediate Reading

By ages 9 to 15, children begin to acquire ideas from what they’re reading. Their reading material includes textbooks, dictionaries and other reference works, newspapers, magazines, and trade books. At this stage of literacy development, a child’s reading comprehension becomes equivalent to listening comprehension. These are some of the experiences of readers at this phase:

5. Advanced Reading

At the last stage of literacy development, readers can comprehend long and complex text without assistance. They’re also able to find on their own books and other printed material that’s relevant to a specific topic. Characteristics of readers at this stage include the following:


Literacy Development in Early Childhood

Literacy development in early childhood entails helping children build language skills, including their vocabulary, ability to express themselves, and reading comprehension. Learning to read is a complex process that children master at their own pace, so it’s natural for some children to proceed more slowly than others.

Skills Needed for Reading Comprehension

The many individual skills required for reading comprehension can be divided into seven broad categories: decoding, fluency, vocabulary, sentence structure, sentence cohesion, background knowledge, and working memory and attention.

Activities That Stimulate Reading Comprehension

The best way to prepare children for a lifetime of reading enjoyment is to surround them with words from infancy through their teen years. Everyday activities, such as eating meals, going to the store, taking a bath, and playing outside are excellent opportunities to build a child’s vocabulary and other literacy skills. These literacy activities are suitable for infants and toddlers, as well as for pre-K and school-age children.

Resources: Literacy Development in Early Childhood

Early Literacy Development Stages in Children

While researchers in early literacy development agree that it’s a step-by-step process, they define the steps in different ways. Generally, the path a child takes from earliest awareness of print and reading to independent, competent reader and writer is completed in five stages:

Awareness and Exploration Stage

Between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old, children hear and experiment with reproducing and creating a range of monosyllabic and polysyllabic sounds, ultimately forming words that represent discrete things and concepts. Their introduction to reading is typically through listening to and discussing storybooks, participating in rhyming activities, and beginning to identify letters.

Novice Reading and Writing Stage

At ages 6 and 7, children match letters with sounds and connect printed and spoken words. They can tell simple stories, and understand the orientation of printed words on a page. They’re also able to read and write individual letters and high-frequency words and sound out new monosyllabic words that they encounter.

Traditional Reading and Writing Stage

When they’re between the ages of 7 and 9, children gain fluency in reading familiar stories, increasing their enjoyment. They’re able to decode elements of words and sentences while building their vocabulary of words they recognize on sight. Their reading skills allow them to process new information, and they have a better grasp of the meaning of the material they read.

Fluent and Comprehending Reading and Writing Stage

Between the ages of 9 and 15, children are able to understand what they’re reading from multiple perspectives and learn new ideas and concepts. Their reading expands to reference books, textbooks, and various media, in which they’re exposed to a range of worldviews in addition to new syntax and specialized vocabularies.

Expert Reading and Writing Stage

When children reach their mid teens, their reading skills allow them to tackle advanced topics in science, history, mathematics, and the arts. They’re able to make associations across subject areas and consider complex issues from diverse points of view. Their reading and writing span topics from social and physical sciences to politics and current affairs.

Importance of Literacy Development in Children

Children gain confidence in many areas of their lives when they grow up to become strong readers. The literary skills they began learning in their first months of life enhance all aspects of their lifelong education. By encouraging a love of reading in children, we instill a desire to learn and progress that propels them through their school years, careers, and personal lives. Children learn that reading is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable skills they’ll ever possess.

Author Bio

My name is Emma Perez, and I have a keen interest in the field of writing. I have written a couple of articles on various gemstones, fashion and would love to express my opinion on more such stones. Hope it has maximized your knowledge of gemstone jewelry and satisfied your quest to buy moldavite jewelry from an authentic place. We believe in quality and offer the same in our information and products.

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