Speak to us at (425) 557-6657


Emergent Literacy

Emergent Literacy

Emergent Literacy

Strong reading and reading comprehension skills are important building blocks for academic success. So, when it seems like your child is falling behind in this area, it can be worrisome. However, there are ways to encourage literacy skills from a very young age and have fun in the process.

Early Warning Signs

Certain signs that may lead to reading and writing problems:

  • Lack of interest in nursery rhymes.
  • Lack of interest in shared reading.
  • Persistent baby talk.
  • Difficulty understanding simple directions.
  • Difficulty learning names of letters.


If your child is showing early warning signs or is having trouble learning to read or write, there are multiple activities and tips that will help boost your child’s learning process. Since language and literacy go hand in hand, experience with spoken language directly translates to developing reading and writing skills. There are multiple areas that aid in the development of strong literacy skills.


Vocabulary- The size of a child’s vocabulary has a direct impact on their ability to understand a story. As a caregiver, one can help increase a child’s vocabulary size simply by interacting with them and pointing out new words in the environment and/or in print. Help the child understand the word by relating it to something they are familiar with.  

Alphabet Sound Awareness- One of the more important aspects of reading is to understand the connection between letters and the sounds that they represent, and how the sounds change when different letters are combined. Once a child has a good understanding of this sound awareness, they will be able to read words even if they don’t know them.

Playing with silly sounds, rhyming words, and isolating sounds in words are all fun activities to do with your child. Playing with letters, such as making letters in playdough or using alphabet magnets, is a fun way to explore their shapes and sounds. As children engage with these types of activities, they will learn to separate the segments and sounds that make up words.

Print Knowledge- As a child begins to explore books, they will begin to develop print knowledge. If they are reading in English, they will learn that a book is held right side up and read front to back, words on the page are read left to right and from the top of the page to bottom. In addition, adults can point out that words are separated by spaces and combined to make sentences.

Story Composition- Children will begin to understand that stories are arranged with a beginning, middle, and end, and that they contain certain elements such as characters, settings, and actions. As we tell stories to our children, or describe events that happened throughout our day, children will begin to pick up on these elements and structure. Having kids sequence daily events, like noting how they wash their hands- first turn on the water, then apply soap, lastly rinse- can help them learn how stories are arranged. 

Critical Thinking Skills- As you explore the world of literacy, be sure to guide your little ones to think about the story. Can they projectthemselves into the story – how would they feel in the same situation? Take a pause to predictwhat might happen next. Think of alternate ways to solve a problem that is presented. These skills can be practiced in day to day life – not just when reading a book.


Reading with your child

To help a child grow and develop their reading abilities, the most important step is to read. Whether it is looking at a picture book together and pointing out pictures, or reading a chapter book, reading is the best time for kids to develop their literacy skills. Finding the time to read is important. It’s alright if you do not have a lot of time to spare, even ten minutes of reading is better than none. If you choose a specific time to read, like before bed, the child will develop strong reading habits that could last a lifetime.

The way you read to your child can make the experience more rewarding. Getting your child to actively engage with the story gives them more opportunities to understand the way a story functions as they interact with it. How a child interacts with the story, from conversations about the story to just pointing at the page, will depend on their developmental level. Adjust your expectations to the child’s level to keep them engaged and motivated.

When you read to your child, it is important that you watch your child and wait for them. Before you turn the page, it’s important to give your child time to explore the story before moving on. As your child shows interest in a picture or idea, take the opportunity to have a conversation and hopefully add to their understanding of the story, or just add a new word to their vocabulary. If you can, linking what is happening in the story with something that happened in the child’s life can help them think critically.

Noticing and following the child’s lead will help keep their attention and focus, as well as helping them expand their reading skills.


My Child Doesn’t Want to Read

What if my kid doesn’t want to read? Sometimes, getting a child interested and excited about an activity can be quite a task. When it comes down to it, kids get excited about what we get excited about. Find short but interesting stories, or look at a picture book together. When a child first starts to read, take turns reading and build their endurance – first trade off reading sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. Another activity that can help with literacy is oral story telling. Telling stories and encouraging your child to add to the stories has some of the same positive influences on literacy, as it installs the core concepts of what makes up a story.

What else can you do?

In addition to reading, there are other things you can do to promote literacy. Here is a list from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA):

  • Talk to your child and name objects, people, and events in the everyday environment.
  • Repeat your child's strings of sounds (e.g., "dadadada, bababa") and add to them.
  • Talk to your child during daily routine activities such as bath or mealtime and respond to their questions.
  • Draw your child's attention to print in everyday settings such as traffic signs, store logos, and food containers.
  • Introduce new vocabulary words during holidays and special activities such as outings to the zoo, the park, and so on.
  • Engage your child in singing, rhyming games, and nursery rhymes.
  • Read picture and story books that focus on sounds, rhymes, and alliteration (words that start with the same sound, as found in Dr. Seuss books).
  • Reread your child's favorite book(s).
  • Focus your child's attention on books by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Provide a variety of materials to encourage drawing and scribbling (e.g., crayons, paper, markers, finger paints).
  • Encourage your child to describe or tell a story about their drawing and write down the words.

You can access ASHA’s blog here

About the Author

Lisa Hamblin, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lisa Hamblin, M.S., CCC-SLP

Lisa has worked with kids since her days in college coaching gymnastics for children 3-13.  Lisa is stimulated by watching children learn and succeed “their inner light shines so bright” she says, and it's this passion that serves as the foundation of SCT's mission to support and enrich the lives of children.

Lisa's therapy focuses on a child's specific needs and personality; a strategy that makes therapy feel more like play and less like work. Her specialties include autism spectrum disorders and advanced training in early speech and language development. Her training and experience with children birth to three years gives her a deep understanding of how to help children at any age. When Lisa founded SCT, she made training in birth to 3 years a requirement for all therapists as part of her effort to provide the best therapy possible for every child.

At home, Lisa has had the opportunity to guide the development of her own children – ages 17, 15, and 3. She finds relaxation in physical activities like running and rock climbing. This summer Lisa's oldest daughter will join her “on the rock” for the first time.


comments powered by Disqus