Literacy Development: What It Is And Why It Matters For Kids 

by wherelearnu

Not only do you want your child to succeed in school, but you also want them to be confident, inquisitive, lifelong learners. Literacy development sets the stage for a lifetime of reading and learning, and you can help develop critical reading skills with day-to-day activities at home.

In this article, we’ll focus on early literacy development — why it’s important and tips for promoting it. But first, let’s discuss the stages of literacy development, starting with the basics.

What Is Literacy Development?

When you hear the word “literacy,” you may think about reading and writing. While those skills are certainly a part of literacy, it also involves learning new vocabulary, identifying sounds in words, learning to link sounds and letters, understanding stories, and more.

Literacy development refers to the whole process of learning language and the words and sounds that go with it. It facilitates reading and writing, which in turn facilitates good communication and learning.

Where do kids learn these skills? In school, certainly, but the truth is that literacy development happens all the time and everywhere — at home, on the go, and everywhere in-between.

Think about it: In daily life, we are constantly speaking, listening, reading, or writing; from songs to conversations, recipes to billboards, giving virtually nonstop opportunities to engage with literacy events. But, of course, literacy skills do not develop overnight.

To understand how literacy develops over time, let’s discuss the stages.

The Stages Of Literacy Development

Your child develops language and literacy skills from the time they are infants and you’re cradling them in your arms, and the process continues throughout the years.

Early Language Development

Dad reading to baby for literacy development

Between birth and two years of age, your baby is in the early language development stage as they listen, take everything in, point to things, and later shape their own first words and sentences.


Your child may be chattering away, but at two, three, and four years old, they’re still in the pre-reading stage. They’re working on the building-block skills that set them up for the next stage.

Emergent Literacy

Around ages four and five, your child is learning the crucial skills that will lead to reading and writing very soon. Emergent literacy includes (among other components) learning how to handle a book, an interest in telling and listening to stories, and forming letters.

Decoding And Encoding

By the time your child is between five and seven, they’re stepping out into the big, wide world of writing and reading. These initial steps of decoding and encoding (reading and spelling) open the door to the fluency and comprehension to come.

Developing Fluency And Comprehension

From seven to nine, your child is continuing to develop the skills they have already established.

Much of this stage involves reading books or other writing that gets progressively more challenging; moving from short words and sentences to multisyllabic words; and incorporating longer sentences, increasingly complex plots, and words with suffixes and prefixes

Reading To Learn

From age nine and up, your child is in the read-to-learn stage, which is exactly what it sounds like. The sky’s the limit now!

Why Early Literacy Development Matters For Kids

Mom reading to son for literacy development

The importance of reading and writing is self-evident. Good literacy facilitates confidence, school success, everyday communication, and independent learning.

In this article, we are honing in on early literacy development — the stage where your child is not yet reading or writing but building the firm foundation for these skills.

Early literacy development is extremely important since reading and writing require understanding all of the components before mastery. Your child’s brain is slowly but surely mastering foundational skills. This, in turn, helps a child’s confidence grow stronger and stronger.

While some of this learning happens naturally, there are specific ways you can support early literacy development that encourages a love of reading.

Tips For Promoting Early Literacy Development

Below, we’ll list several tips for promoting early literacy development. But these practices shouldn’t be limited to one stage of the process. Start these habits early in your child’s life and don’t stop!

Keep in mind that you want to encourage your child to read with you and engage with books, but not force them. Reading should be fun, not an obligation that they dread!

1) Read Books With Your Child

Reading books to and with your child is a big part of helping them learn to read and love it, too. Make reading a part of your daily routine, and when you read aloud, use voice inflection and sounds to make the story as engaging and interesting as possible.

Since reading books is such a big part of early literacy development, we’ll give you a few other pointers for making it an ideal experience for your child.

Choose The Appropriate Reading Level

Toddler looking at a picture book

Even though your child isn’t reading on their own yet, choosing books that are the appropriate level is important. For younger children, opt for books with big print, fun colors, flaps, and touch-and-feel pages.

Meanwhile, older children may be interested in longer and more complex stories.

Let Your Child Turn The Pages

Although handling and reading a book is second nature for you, it’s a whole new concept for a very young child. Part of early literacy development is learning about books themselves — how to hold them, which way to turn the pages, and where to start reading.

Encouraging your child to hold the book or turn the pages helps them get the hang of books themselves.

Ask Questions About The Story

As you read, engage your child by asking them questions about the story they’re hearing. For example, you might ask:

  • “What will happen now?”
  • “What would you do?”
  • “Why do you think he did that?”

Point To The Words You Are Reading

Mom with little girl reading book in sofa

As your child gets closer to reading, point out the words as you go along. This not only helps them identify words and letters but also teaches them to start reading on the left side of the page and move toward the right.

Talk About The Pictures In The Book

It may not feel like a big step, but simply talking about the pictures in the book you’re reading is an important part of early literacy development. Point out pictures, and encourage your child to indicate and discuss the ones that interest them.

2) Encourage Your Child To Tell Stories

Your child probably loves hearing stories. In addition to telling your tales, encourage them to make up and tell their own stories! This is a great way to promote literacy development whether you’re at home or on the go.

3) Make Books Relevant To Your Child’s Life

Make books relevant for your child by connecting the stories you’ve read with their daily life. Personalizing the books you read makes reading more interesting and helps kids apply what they learn.

4) Talk With Your Child Throughout The Day

Mom cooking with young son

This is one of the simplest ways to promote early literacy development: Talk with your child throughout the day.

Communicating with your child, narrating what you’re doing, asking them questions, listening to them, and explaining things can make all the difference!

5) Rhyme And Sing With Your Child

As you read earlier in this article, identifying sounds and linking sounds with letters is part of literacy development.

While rhyming might not seem like a big thing, it can help your child hear that there are common endings in words, which, in turn, helps them develop the ability to break words down into smaller parts.

6) Frequent The Library

Mom at the library with son for literacy development

We always recommend frequent trips to your local library!

Checking out a variety of titles allows you to offer different types of books to your child to suit their ever-changing interests. Going with your child to pick out books serves as a wonderful learning experience, too.

7) Use HOMER Learn & Grow

Mom and son playing games on a tablet for literacy development

Since literacy development is a process, consider using the HOMER Learn & Grow app to take your child on a learning journey that boosts their confidence and grows with them.

This ad-free, kid-friendly program provides your child with a personalized pathway that builds essential skills on one another — from letters, sounds, and sight words to reading and spelling.

Our reading pathway at HOMER is even proven to increase early reading scores by 74 percent! Designed for kids ages two through eight, this app teaches your child the right skills at the right time.

Discover how the app that’s designed by experts, backed by research, and tested by kids themselves can be worked into your child’s learning plan.

Literacy Development For Lifelong Learners

Literacy development is an essential part of turning your child into an eager, lifelong learner. And early literacy development before your child even begins reading sets the stage for all of the growth to come!

Promote early literacy development with the tips we listed above, such as reading to your child, making books relevant, encouraging your child to tell stories, rhyming, talking with them, and setting them up with the HOMER Learn & Grow app.

With these tips and your encouragement, you can set your child up for literacy success and a lifetime of learning!


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