4 Early Literacy Skills To Teach Your Kids

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Literacy is an important skill that allows us to unlock the world around us. We can use it to tell our story and encourage others to tell theirs. Literacy is truly a powerful tool, and each and every child should have the opportunity to start off on the right foot.

There are basic early literacy skills that set the foundation for future educational success: phonemic awareness, letter identification, mapping speech to print, and handwriting.

What Are Early Literacy Skills?

Early literacy skills are the building blocks for lifelong success in school. They include both oral language and emergent literacy skills, which are used in learning to read and write.

Language can be thought of as the “glue” that holds our thoughts together when we speak. It is important to remember that oral language is a form of communication that is used every day with parents, caregivers, and teachers. It helps children to learn about their world and express themselves through talking, listening, reading, and writing.

Emergent literacy skills are important for learning as they help children to connect letters with sounds and words with meanings. This makes it easier for them to become good readers later on in life.

What Are The Most Important Early Literacy Skills?

These four early literacy skills make up the basics of literacy education and can help skyrocket lifelong educational outcomes.

Phonemic Awareness 

Phonemic awareness is an important literacy skill that helps children to recognize the sounds that makeup words, build vocabulary, and recognize rhyming patterns.

Phonemic awareness develops naturally as children listen to stories, read books together with adults, and practice singing songs with familiar lyrics.

It's important to note that phonemic awareness isn't just about recognizing individual letters — it's also about understanding how letters represent sounds in words and how those sounds can change depending on where they appear in a word or sentence.

Letter Identification 

Letter identification is one of the leading predictors of future educational success. It helps children learn how to decode words and understand how sounds correspond with letters. Children who can identify letters at an early age are more likely to have success in later reading and writing tasks. This is why it’s important to start teaching your child the alphabet as soon as they can talk!

Mapping Speech To Print 

Mapping speech to print (encoding) is one of the foundational early literacy skills. It involves recognizing that spoken words correspond to printed words. This skill is particularly important for children with language delays who may have oral language processing issues. 

Developing speech-to-print skills helps develop print motivation, which is the desire and willingness to engage with print materials and explore them with curiosity, interest, and enthusiasm. Children who are motivated to use books tend to be more successful readers than those who aren’t interested.

Handwriting 

Handwriting is an important early literacy skill for young learners. While we can think of handwriting as a skill that's only used to create letters and words, it's actually much more than that. The process of learning how to write helps children develop fine motor skills and increased hand-eye coordination, which is both important for reading and writing.

Handwriting also helps children understand the relationship between sounds and letters, making it easier for them to recognize words when they see them written down on paper or hear them spoken aloud. 

Early Literacy Skills Activities

Early literacy skills activities ideas are storytime, songs, poems, drawing, and handwriting stories.

Storytime

Storytime is a fun literacy activity for young children! Children learn about the world around them through stories. Stories can be found everywhere and in every format, making them the perfect way to incorporate a fun learning experience. 

Children learn about themselves and others by becoming immersed in stories. The more often children hear stories, the easier it is for them to recognize patterns of language and predict what might happen next.

Songs

Singing songs is an excellent way to encourage children to learn new words and sounds. Singing also helps children with language development, as they learn how to talk about things that mean something to them. 

Songs can be about animals, colors, feelings, or anything else you can think of. The most important thing about singing is that it’s fun for both the child and parent!

Poems

Poetry is a fun and easy way to help young children develop early literacy skills. They help phonemic awareness through rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, as well as introduce new vocabulary. Poems are a great idea to include movement and laughter — the funnier, the better! 

Drawing

Drawing is a crucial early literacy skill. Drawing helps children to develop their fine motor skills, which are important for writing later. It also helps children to improve their hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. Drawing also helps children to develop language skills such as describing and talking about what they have drawn.

Drawing can also be used to help children learn new words. When children draw pictures of things they know or have seen, they can label the pictures with words. This helps them to understand what words mean and how they are used in sentences.

Handwriting Stories

Handwriting stories are the ideal way to teach children the basics of writing. The stories are written using a unique blend of phonics and storytelling, which makes them fun and engaging for children. They help learn letter identification, phonics, and directionality in a way that is easy to remember for little ones!

Here is a quick and easy chart to help you understand which activity helps build which early literacy skill.

ActivityBenefitIdea
StorytimeVocabulary BuildingRead stories before bed or a dedicated storytime
SongsVocabulary, Phonemic AwarenessMorning time sing-a-long 
PoetryPhonemic AwarenessSilly tongue twisters in the car
DrawingFine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial awarenessDrawing at the park
Handwriting StoriesLetter ID and directionalityPhonics in Motion’s Handwriting Stories with the Reading & Writing Monster

How To Teach Early Literacy Skills

One of the most effective ways to teach early literacy skills to young children is to make the experience meaningful. Kids are full of energy, and forcing them into practicing handwriting and sight words simply isn’t the best option.

By honoring the spirit of childhood and teaching in a fun, multi-sensory ways, you give your child the tools necessary to investigate language.

While explicit teaching is important, and we should always make sure to model activities for kids, teaching early literacy by drilling information sets kids up for failure. They learn that literacy is something they have to do, not want to do. 

Using authentic learning opportunities to make learning fun is the key! By turning everyday moments into a literacy adventure, kids don’t even know they’re learning how to read and handwrite. Teaching in this way helps maintain a parent-child connection, building great memories and great readers at the same time! 

You don’t need a classroom to teach your kids to love reading and writing. In fact, by giving them the tools and strategies they need to learn independently, you are opening them up to a whole wide world of education.

Phonics in Motion 

Phonics in Motion’s Early Readers & Writers program is an easy way to jumpstart your child’s love of literacy. Covering all five pillars of early literacy in a way that is fun and backed by the Science of Reading, gives you the skills to participate in your child’s education as a parent. Capturing attention through motions, funny stories, and silly poems, this high-energy early literacy program is perfect for high-energy kids!

Phonics in Motion is focused on the parent-child connection that keeps kids away from screens! Instead of learning through apps, PIM helps kids learn through movement and the power of fun.