Language and literacy development are major domains of early childhood development.
They involve skills used to communicate with others through speaking, writing, listening and reading. This makes language and literacy development a vital part of your children’s overall growth. It is the foundation for doing well at school and being able to socialise with people around them.
However, before your children can learn to read and write, they need to ensure that their building blocks for literacy development are put in place. These building blocks are their ability to speak, listen, understand, watch and draw, especially in their native language.
Early literacy skills can be inculcated through communicating with your children when you read or play with them.
What are some literacy development milestones that you should keep an eye out for?
Literacy Development Milestones by Ages
Language is defined as a system of symbols used for communication purposes and literacy is defined as the ability to read and write.
Language and literacy development in preschoolers occur from the day your children are born. Contrary to popular belief, this does not miraculously happen when they begin preschool. Everything that parents do to support literacy development milestones has a lasting positive effect.
The very first words your children hear from you is the start of their language growth. As they get older, their vocabulary widens with the conversations they share with you, as well as the books they are exposed to through reading.
To understand the literacy development milestones by ages, here is a simple table as a guide for your reference:
Ways to Encourage Literacy Development Milestones at Home
1. Let’s talk!
Your children’s first block to language and literacy development begins with speech.
As a baby, they listen constantly to our monologue with them until they develop the skill of babbling. You will notice that as you speak, they wait for a pause in your voice before responding with a sound. What they are demonstrating here is turn-taking in a conversation!
Speaking is intricately linked to reading, writing and listening. To help your children work on their speaking skills, ask them open-ended questions to allow them to explain their answers. This gives them the opportunity to learn to be coherent in their speech to be understood by others.
Your children can also be involved in retelling their favourite stories to you. When they do that, this is a chance for you to check their understanding of the story that they had read.
Developing your children’s vocabulary is crucial as it paves the way for them to have an easier time in reading and writing. You can help your children to expand their vocabulary by teaching them to describe the world around them.
For example, in describing the food that they eat, instead of asking them if the food tastes good, you can use words like, “delicious”, “sumptuous”, “scrummy”, “tasty” to replace the word “good”.
The exposure to different vocabulary and its context will cement its usage in your children’s minds more vividly than learning passively through a screen.
2. Develop a love for reading
Reading to your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them.
Learning to read is not a skill that comes easily or naturally to children. It is difficult as there are a lot of factors at play before a child can successfully be an independent reader. They have to decode the words they see in order to pronounce them and they have to work on understanding unfamiliar words in context to the story.
Language and literacy development milestones in preschoolers can be inculcated through talking about the pictures in the books.
As you ask them questions, your children learn to pre-empt the story and use words to explain what is happening in the pictures. When your children are actively interacting with the book, they form an emotional connection between the story and the words they are listening to.
You can also encourage your children to participate by reading aloud the portions of the story that they might have memorised. They could chime in to complete the sentence with you.
3. Help them learn phonics with sounds
From learning their uppercase and lowercase of the alphabet to recognising individual letter sounds in words, these skills are the foundation blocks for reading and writing.
Once your children understand the sounds that each letter makes, they can use their phonological awareness skill to find rhyming words, identify words that begin or end with the same sound, and blend the sounds together to make words.
Exposing your children to the alphabet and its letter sounds does not have to be done in a boring manner (“This is B. B makes the /buh/ sound. Can you say /buh/ for B?”).
Instead, as you walk around in the shops or even at the train stations, you can point out the letters that they see on posters or signboards. This increases their understanding that letters make words.
You can play a game with them too. For example, you can ask them to look for words that begin with the “b” sound in their surroundings. This would mean actively trying to read the signs, even though they may not understand the words yet. Their eyes are scanning for the words they need to win this game with you!
Allowing your children to understand the importance of letters and their sounds is quintessential to their literacy development milestones. This is the start of their success to read and write in school next time.
4. Writing is not always bad
While some experts are of the view that children do not need to be writing until they are ready, there is no harm in introducing writing tools to a preschooler.
At the start of their writing journey, all you may see are just scribbles. Your children could possibly tell you a story that they have written through their scribbles too.
If they do that, do not discourage them by saying you cannot understand what they have written. In their little minds, they have worked so hard to produce this amazing story to relate to you so play along with them. Understand that children do not actually learn to write properly until they are at least 5 years old.
To help your children get to a stage where they are comfortable with the use of a writing tool, you can get them to trace letters, lines, or pictures on papers. By three, your children should distinguish the difference between drawing and writing. You can also introduce the spelling of their names and get them to trace write their names in any writing tool they choose.
Building hand muscles for writing is also important. Give your children time to knead playdough in their hands. This strengthens their muscles to be able to grip their pencils properly for writing.
I am excited! How else can I help my children reach their literacy development milestones?
A lot of emphasis is being placed on the importance of language and literacy development milestones in preschoolers because this is the stepping stone to their academic journey.
However, sometimes it can feel very overwhelming when the pressure of this immense task falls onto your shoulders.
Our E-Guide on Letter Recognition and Word Blending for preschoolers could be useful for you and your children. Click on the link to download the complimentary guide and get started.
If you are also interested to register your children in a structured but fun environment to develop their reading ability, consider enrolling them in the MindChamps Reading Programme, which features an integrated phonics learning method.
After all, literacy development is not just an individual effort!
Written by Danielle Hee