There are six primary early literacy skills.

1. Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is knowing the names and sounds of letters, that the same letter can look different, and that each letter has a specific sound or sounds. In order to learn to read later, children must understand that words are constructed from smaller pieces, and that those smaller pieces are individual letters. Letter identification can be one of the strongest predictors of future reading success. You can practice letter knowledge with your child by starting with the letters in their name, checking out alphabet books at the library, pointing out letters in your daily routine, and practicing their sounds.

2. Narrative Skills

Narrative skills is the ability to describe events and tell stories. This skill is tied closely to later reading comprehension. If a child has been exposed to storytelling and can recognize a story’s beginning, middle, and end, they have an advantage when they begin reading stories and understanding their meaning. Talking about what you are doing while you are doing it or recounting the day’s activities (at dinner or before bed) can be great ways to practice narrative skills and practice putting events in sequence.

3. Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is being able to hear and play with the smaller sounds that make up words. Because phonological awareness has to do with the smaller sounds in words, it is an important skill to becoming a fluent reader. Rhymes of all kinds are an excellent way to reinforce this skill. Choose rhyming books, fingerplays, or songs and point out the rhyming pairs. As you read a rhyming book, let your child predict what the rhyme will be at the end of the phrase.

4. Print Awareness

Print awareness is noticing print, the ability to handle a book, and understanding how to follow the words on a page. Adults take print for granted, but children need to learn several fundamental components of how it works. For example in English, we read from left to right and top to bottom. Parents and caregivers can focus on this skill by modeling how to hold books and using your finger to follow print as you read. Point out words that are all around in your environment (signs, packaging, menus, etc.).

5. Print Motivation

Print motivation is showing interest and enjoying books. This is promoted and increased when parents and caregivers provide positive experiences with print. Do your best to make the experience of reading fun. Create a special place for reading, such as a reading corner with a comfortable chair and a blanket. Spend time focusing just on your child and the story. If the child is fussy or uncomfortable, stop reading and try again later. In order to foster this skill, it is more important that your child’s experiences with books and reading be enjoyable rather than lengthy.

6. Vocabulary

Vocabulary is knowing the names of things. Children who have been exposed to a large number of words do a better job of translating those spoken words to printed words when they begin to learn to read. Learning to recognize printed words is also much easier if the word is already a part of the child’s vocabulary. Reading comprehension relies heavily on knowing the meaning of the individual words in a text. Vocabulary can be improved by activities as simple as reading a variety of stories, talking about the pictures in those stories, and naming objects as you encounter them during your day.


Remember! Early literacy is not about teaching your child how to read, but rather building the skills they need to be successful when they begin reading instruction later on. Motivate them by making their experiences with books and reading fun!