Early Literacy Matters

A strong start to reading directly impacts a child’s long-term learning and life success.

Early language and literacy development must begin at birth. A good start in language and literacy development is a strong predictor of successful literacy achievement in the early grades, reports of fewer literacy difficulties as students move through their academic career, and preparation for lifelong learning. Early literacy activities shared with parents, grandparents, siblings, family members, and childcare givers are associated with students’ sustained interest and engagement in reading and writing. These activities include reading and talking about books with children, telling family stories, engaging in conversations around shared experiences, building vocabulary and language, and encouraging scribble writing to convey messages and signal to children that print has meaning.

When children enter preschool and kindergarten, teachers help students take their early experiences with language to the next level. They should make explicit connections between students’ background knowledge and the skills required for enhancing their word learning, reading comprehension, writing, vocabulary, speaking, and listening abilities. Teachers have the same responsibility to students who are typically underserved, including those living in high-poverty urban and rural areas, and those that may come to school with very different literacy experiences than their peers.

Realizing the potential of all students to be successful literate learners is at the heart of productive early literacy instruction. And particularly powerful is coupling this expectation for student learning with instruction that provides explicit comprehension of texts at varying difficulty levels, meaningful conversations around text ideas, and knowledge- and vocabulary-building activities.