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Early literacy

Children who start talking later sometimes have more difficulty learning to read and write so it is important to think about how we help them get started. Your child will start to learn about print as soon as they are old enough to watch you. You can help them to get interested in literacy and to understand how and why we write down our ideas.

  • Give your child pencils, crayons, and paper for scribbling, drawing and pretending to write words.
  • Point out words all around you – on favorite toys, labels, and signs.

Talk about print when your child is interested

  • Point out letters and words around your home (e.g. in favorite books, on cereal boxes). Show your child signs in your community (e.g. grocery store, restaurant). Point out letters that are in your child’s name.
  • Tell your child what you’re doing and why when you write things (e.g., “I’m writing a grocery lists so I don’t forget that we need to buy the cereal you like best,” or “I’m writing on grandma’s birthday card that we lover her and we hope she can come visit us”).
  • Watch for signs that your child is interested in words. These are the best times to talk to them about print and what the words say.

Introduce your child to the idea of printing

  • Have fun with pencils, crayons, markers or paints at home. Use chalk to scribble on a sidewalk or a stick to draw in the dirt or snow. Paint with water.
  • Print recipes with simple steps. Slowly sound out each word as you add the letters to the page. Then read the words as you cook together.
  • Run your finger along the words on the page as you say them so your child begins to connect spoken words with printed words.
  • Play letter games (e.g. fridge magnets). Talk about both the letter names and the sounds the letter makes (i.e., “M” says “mmmm”).
  • If they are interested, help your child copy or trace simple shapes.
  • Let your child pretend to ‘write’ lists, letters and stories using ‘scribble words’ or pictures.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about what they draw. Then write the word(s) on the drawing for your child to see.

Where to get help​

​For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

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