Building Blocks To Becoming A Reader

Reading is vital to a child’s ability to learn and be successful in school. But a child’s ability to read doesn’t happen automatically. Children develop important language skills from birth—and early language abilities are directly related to later reading abilities. This resource shows how a reader’s journey starts from birth and outlines some of the critical milestones that guide the development of a healthy reader. It identifies essential concepts and skills that children are expected to have acquired by the end of key milestone ages, and how adults in their lives can assess where they’re at on the continuum and what the next stage is in their literacy development. Having a set of generally agreed-upon guidelines helps parents, families, child-care professionals, and educators work together to help children grow and learn.

The Four Legs of Emergent Literacy

Think of four table legs as the four components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing that form the foundation of literacy. When all four components are in place, the table is in balance. If one is uneven, the child’s emergent literacy skills are out of balance and that skill needs a little bolstering. For successful literacy development, all four skills need to be evenly developed in children.

Ways adults can support children’s language, reading, and writing

  • Talk and read to your child in your native language so he or she is exposed to a rich vocabulary.
  • Sing songs and play games.
  • Babies enjoy being held and talked to while looking at simple picture books.
  • Make reading a daily routine.
  • Toddlers like to look at pictures while lifting flaps and feeling textures and hearing rhymes.
  • Elaborate on what they say to increase their language, then tell your own stories about everyday life―and encourage them to tell theirs.
  • Children ages 4 to 9 enjoy longer stories and repeated reading of favorite books.
  • It is valuable for children’s language growth to hear great stories that are beyond their reading ability. It is also fun for adults and children alike to read together.
  • Make a point of reading chapter books out loud― listening is tough work for kids at first, but becomes easier with practice.
  • While this chart shows typical development, children with special needs or who have experienced trauma may be developing on a slightly delayed continuum. Adults can support them with activities at a level aligned with their development.



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Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful and enjoy hearing about my personal journey. Thanks for visiting!

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