A child's brain begins wiring for speech and language skills in infancy. At the same time an infant begins to babble and participate in vocal play, the foundation for pre-literacy skills are being laid. It is at this time when individual speech sounds begin to take shape as the ability to discriminate sounds starts to occur. A printed letter is a visual representation of a single speech sound. A string of letters is a sequence of individual speech sounds (phonemes) that constitute a word. As speech and language skills continue to develop, children become more and more aware of printed words. They begin to learn skills that are critical for the development of literacy.
These skills begin at birth and continue to expand through the preschool years. Children will begin to combine what they know about speech and language with what they know about print as they acquire literacy skills. The following are milestones in the development of emergent literacy skills
- May show interest in looking at books that have familiar pictures.
- Looks at pictures in a book for a very short period of time when named by an adult.
- Looks at pictures in a book when named by an adult and may point at images or make sounds.
- Responds to songs and rhymes by vocalizing or signing along.
- Turns pages in a book more than one page at a time.
- Can start to name pictures in a book.
- Pats or will point to pictures in a book, particularly when the picture is named by an adult.
- Demonstrates interest in very simple stories for a brief period of time.
- Likes to have a favorite book read to him/her over and over again.
- Starts to sit alone and look at books.
- Turns pages one at a time.
- Know the direction of print (language specific e.g., left to right in English, right to left in Hebrew).
- Begins to understand the function and purpose of written language - words have meaning and purposes.
- Points to and names many common pictures in a book when named by an adult.
- Enjoys books with repeatable and predictable patterns and rhythm (e.g. Dr. Seuss books).
- Understands orientation of a book, knows that a book has a front and back, pages turn, holds a book right side up.
- Listens and enjoys being read to for longer periods of time (5-15 minutes).
- Recognizes familiar print such as restaurant logos (McDonalds), names on cereal boxes (Cheerios), street signs (stop sign).
- Pretends to read books as an adult would by holding the books, turning the pages, labeling, or making up own story, even mimicking adult reading intonation and cadence.
- Recognizes and may start to say words that rhyme and words that begin with the same initial sound.
- Enjoys being read to and likes to participate in familiar stories that are redundant (Brown bear, brown bear what do you see...).
- Pretends to read a story that is memorized.
- Recognizes word boundaries by pointing to spaces between words.
- Understands that the adult is reading the words in a book rather than simply describing the picture.
- Enjoys saying rhyming words.
- Understands that words can be divided into smaller units by tapping or clapping out the number of syllables in a word when taught.
- Names printed letters in alphabet and numbers 1-10.
- Begins to understand letters represent sounds (e.g. the letter "f" makes this sound "fff").
- Can identify the first sound in spoken words (e.g. "dog" starts with the letter "d").
- Can read some familiar words by sight.
- Begins to point to specific letters on a page.
Keep in mind each child learns at different rates and will have his or her own unique learning style. If you have concerns about your child's ability to talk, listen, read, or write, contact The Alcott Center for Cognitive Enhancement for a screening.