Early Literacy

Creating a Strong Base for Language Development, Reading, and Writing


By Connie Goldin, MA, MFT

Imagine being able to help your child have success in school (and later, life!) through fun little activities you begin at their birth. All the beautiful bonding you naturally do with a newborn– touching, hugging, kissing, talking and singing—actually helps the newborn’s brain grow and lays the foundation for future learning. Making eye contact and gazing into your baby’s face helps both of you bond and know each other. It also importantly teaches the baby to learn different facial expressions.

Activities parents do with their young children before age three, introducing them to letters, books, shapes, the printed word, new vocabulary, and scribbling, prepares them for future reading and writing. A parent lays down the foundation for Early Literacy through such simple activities as talking, singing, playing games, reading out loud, and writing. This happens before a child can actually read or write; at birth through age three, and begins at home. It is based on love and learned through play.

Early literacy is different from early reading. There is no pressing need for babies and toddlers to learn to read. Reading, as a specific baby/toddler milestone, doesn’t exist. Reading comes later. Playing games, and spending time talking and reading out loud, will give your child a great start in life in many ways. The most important result is for your baby and young children to have a close, loving and trusting relationship with you. Additionally, spending time with you will help your child learn about gestures and body language, which are also an important part of language and human expression.

When you sing, tell nursery rhymes, and play baby games, your child is listening, and watching your face. His brain is processing it all. When you read to your baby, and talk about the pictures, your baby learns new words and that books are interesting and fun. Babies learn to recognize that print on a page has meaning. Reading time is special, a “stress-free” time, free from worry and hurry.

When you are on the move, the language-learning opportunities continue. Pointing out letters on signs, and circles and rectangles you see on a walk through the neighborhood are fun ways to introduce the alphabet and first shapes. Finding numbers in the neighborhood on addresses and license plates makes learning numbers fun. It’s simple, easy, and free, and so important! This is one way to help small children begin to notice print around them.

When you are in the car, sing! Singing helps young children hear words and sounds in a different way. Here is a very short video that explains why:

Follow your baby’s or toddler’s lead and pay attention to his interest level and attention span. Over the first three years, there is so much to explore, learn, and enjoy. The amount of information and number of words babies can learn through play, by age three, is astonishing.** As they get close to age three, storybooks and hearing your own stories, will help listening skills and the child’s ability to describe things. All of this is fun! Sharing these happy moments will provide a lasting bond for you and your child and builds a great base for being ready to learn to read and write in the years to follow.

“By the age of 3, a preschooler’s vocabulary consists of approximately 2,000-4,000 words and by age 5, approximately 5,000-8,000 words.” (Bredekamp and Copple, 1997, 107-109) Early Literacy Connecticut State Department of Education


Reading Milestones

Early Literacy A Focus on Preschool

“What is Early Literacy”

Zero to Three

“It All Begins in the Early Years”

Early Literacy Chart

Early Literacy Concepts for Educators

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