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Laying Foundation: The Importance of Child Literacy

A child’s literacy skills are key to a successful, fulfilling life. Sadly, adults with low literacy skills face significant barriers to economic prosperity and social connection.

Children develop the essential literacy skills in many ways, from listening to rhyming songs and repeating phrases to physically handling books and understanding their orientation on a page.


A child’s reading abilities are largely determined by their ability to decode new words. The first step in this process is learning how to hear the individual sounds in a word, known as phonemic awareness.

Once children have mastered phonemic awareness, they can learn the relationship between spoken sound combinations (phonemes) and their written spelling patterns (graphemes). This is called phonics.

A systematic synthetic phonics approach is considered one of the best ways to teach a child to read, with a strong body of evidence supporting its efficacy. It should be incorporated within a balanced literacy curriculum that encourages visual learners to recognize whole words by sight and creates opportunities for extensive reading.

Effective Reading Strategies

In addition to phonics and fluency, effective reading strategies include vocabulary building and comprehension techniques. These handy tools help kids work through any reading blocks they may encounter.

The wide base of background knowledge that kids acquire through hands-on experiences, conversations, and books helps them better understand and make sense of new material. In fact, children with a larger vocabulary have greater reading comprehension skills than those with fewer words in their vocabulary.

Pairing older students with younger ones to read together has both academic and social and emotional benefits. The little kids see fluency modeled and profit from the one-on-one attention they receive from their mentors, while the older students gain valuable empathy and patience while helping their younger peers with more difficult content.

Teaching Early Writing Skills

Children’s writing development is a critical step in the literacy learning process. However, teachers often lack clear instructional guidance on how to provide young children with a variety of writing experiences. This article provides a framework to understand children’s emergent writing, along with research-based strategies for differentiating their experiences.

Emergent writing is the first step in developing children’s ability to write, which means they begin to express themselves through markings on paper (Rowe & Neitzel 2010; Dennis & Votteler 2013). Teachers encourage this form of writing by providing students with opportunities to mark on paper, such as when they are learning centers or participating in group writing activities. This practice helps develop the conceptual and procedural knowledge needed for children to progress to later stages of writing development.

Children’s Books

Books – particularly children’s books – provide an important bridge to the world of learning. They help kids develop imagination, expand their worldview and prepare them for the next stage in their development. They give kids a chance to experience the world of adults vicariously, allowing them to try it on before they step into it.

Reading aloud to a child from birth is one of the most important things parents can do to promote early literacy. This gives kids the pleasure of reading with their parents and increases their chances for academic success. It also helps them gain a sense of the literary use of language, which is different from conversational speech.

Increasingly, children’s literature depicts a more multicultural world than did the books published in the seventeenth century. This change is due in part to the civil rights movement and a desire for publishers to offer readers a more accurate representation of the America they live in.


Storytelling is a great way to help children expand their imaginations and gain a broader understanding of the world around them. It also helps children learn how to concentrate for longer periods of time without getting bored or distracted.

Storytellers are highly attuned to their audience and can adjust their storytelling techniques to fit the needs of the listeners. This sensitivity can be seen in the way children retell upsetting experiences in stories to others, and in how they incorporate different formats, tropes and rhyming patterns into their own narratives.

Paying analytical attention to the teachersâ€TM storytelling performance reveals that they elicited the toddlersâ€TM co-narration by deploying a lighthouse gaze, intentionally generating designed incomplete utterances and exploitation of their recognizability through bodily repetitions, choral completions and volunteering anticipatory contributions. The teachersâ€TM enactment of these elements served to build up the dramatic experience and suspense, and provide conditions for the young childrenâ€TMs active participation.