To be prepared for school, young children need a strong foundation of early literacy skills – the skills required before a child starts to read or write on her own. Many studies show that children who start school with higher levels of these skills go on to have greater academic success.

What early literacy skills do children need to learn?

Early literacy can be divided into two sets of skills:


Meaning-related skills

These are the skills that require a child to draw on her knowledge and experience to form ideas and understanding that goes beyond what’s written on the page. Meaning-related skills include:

  • Story comprehension – Understanding not only what is happening in a book, but why it is happening, and being able to read “between the lines” to uncover the author’s intention.
  • Vocabulary – This skill grows like a snowball – the more words a child knows, the easier it is for her to learn new words and to gain meaning from stories.
  • Conversation – As a child engages in a conversation, she can draw on her knowledge and experience to make new connections, form new knowledge and build language skills. The better a young child’s conversational skills, the easier it will be for her to understand what she reads later on.

Decoding skills

These are the skills that allow a child to make sense of what’s on the page. Decoding skills include:

  • Print knowledge – The ability to identify letters, words and symbols on a page and to understand how print works – for example, understanding that print is read from left to right and that letters combine to make words.
  • Sound awareness – Understanding that words can be broken down into syllables and smaller sounds, and that letters correspond to certain sounds.

Where It Starts

A child’s learning happens in two equally important places – the home and the classroom. For practical tips and resources to start building early literacy now, click on the buttons below.