Literacy in the early years tends to be thought of as the ability to read and write. But it is much more than that.


It includes a child’s speaking and listening skills which help build the foundations for their reading and writing as they child gets older.


According to the early years foundation stage (EYFS), which sets standards for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old, children under three’s reading skills start with verbal communication. For example, they will begin to; repeat words or phrases from familiar stories; fill in the missing words in a familiar rhyme or story like, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a …’; and enjoy rhyming and rhythmic activities.


As children get older, they will begin to show interest in print in books and in the environment. Then you’ll hear Sally say, ‘That’s my letter’ as she points at the big Sainsbury’s sign. In fact, talking about letters and illustrations you see anywhere can be really helpful to your little one’s development. Sharing this fascination with your little one can have a huge impact on a child’s interest in reading as they get older.


Writing skills begin in a slightly different way. For over 2’s they will begin their writing journey by ascribing meaning to marks that they make. This is where things like a green squiggle on the page are, ‘A snake’; or a deep orange scribble is, “A fire”. Whereas for under 2’s, ‘Early mark-making is not the same as writing. It is a sensory and physical experience for babies and toddlers, which they do not yet connect to forming symbols which can communicate meaning’, according to the EYFS.


Whereas for under 2’s, it states that, “Before they can write, they need to learn to use spoken language to communicate. Later they learn to write down the words they can say.” From around the age of 3 and a half, children will be able to hear and say the initial sounds in words and then link sounds to letters, like those in the alphabet.


Research from The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that regular reading to early years children improves schooling outcomes, regardless of family background and home environment. Another study that measures educational outcomes of 15 year olds found a strong correlation between parents’ storytelling with children in the early years and reading achievement.


It is all about giving spoken and printed words some context. Read to your kids, talk to your kids, describe your surroundings and how you feel. Make these interactions fun, peak their interest and keep them motivated.


We’ve got some really fun ways for you to build and enhance literacy skills in your early years child. Click below for some help!