Early Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write. Important early literacy skills include knowledge of the alphabetic code (understanding that letters are used to represent individual sounds), phonological awareness (identifying and manipulating units of oral language), and phonemic awareness (manipulating the individual sounds in spoken words). Strength in these areas is important for early reading success.

Children with good early literacy skills:

  • learn the alphabet
  • attach names to printed letters
  • attach sounds to letters
  • clap out the number of syllables in a spoken word (octopus = oc-to-pus)
  • identify words that rhyme (hat, mat, sat)
  • produce and match rhymes
  • recognize words with the same initial or first sound (bat, bug)
  • identify the first or last sound in a word (sun - /s/)
  • recognize what word is left when a word is deleted from a compound word (say cupcake without cake –cup)
  • recognize what word is left when a sound is deleted from a word (say farm without saying /f/ - arm)
  • break a word into its individual sounds ( sun = /s/ /u/ /n/)
  • blend or put together individual sounds to form a word (/s/ /a/ /t/ = sat)

Characteristics of early literacy delays include an inability to notice, think about, or manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words. Early literacy delays can be due to several factors. It may simply be a lack of experience or exposure to early literacy; there may be a speech-language, hearing, or retrieval problem; or there may be a family history of dyslexia. Regardless of the cause, these skills can be taught, but they must be taught directly and systematically. Early intervention is important.

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