The four essentials of literacy are

1. Spoken Vocabulary

Gray-haired woman leaning back in a recliner, facing baby in pink onesie facing her, leaning against her knees.
Talk to babies from birth.

If you want your child to succeed in learning to read when the time comes, speak to your newborn from Day One.

Describe your surroundings. Give step-by-step descriptions of bathing, dressing, and feeding—not just once, but every time.

Being spoken to is how your child will learn the words that go with objects and actions. As far as possible, speak in complete sentences.

All the speaking should not be on one side. Once your child begins babbling, model the process of conversation by making the sounds back. This is how children learn the sounds of their native language.

2. The Sounds and Symbols of English

Laughing baby kneeling on brightly colored mat printed with letters of the alphabet in different colors
Surround your baby with the letters of the alphabet.

English is written with an alphabet. Knowing which spoken sounds go with which letters of the alphabet is essential information.

Surround your newborn with the letters of the alphabet, both upper- and lowercase.

Teach the names of the letters as you teach the names of any other objects or creatures, such as chair, bed, dog, kitten.

Teach the sounds as well as the names. Play with sounds like mmmm, zzzzz, and shhhh.

3. Basic Written Vocabulary

The word "mop" spelled with plastic letters
Children can learn to write with plastic letters before they can control a pencil.

Once your child is old enough (about three years old) you can begin teaching the elements of written language.

Even before the child can control a pencil, you can teach the spelling of three-letter words with the use of plastic letters.

Teach your child to write as many words as possible before beginning school.

4. General Knowledge

Reading comprehension depends upon more than the ability to identify words on a printed page. It also depends upon what previous knowledge the reader brings to the text.

Children build vocabulary with picture books.

Children acquire general knowledge by exploring their world, playing with pots and pans, digging in a garden or flowerbox, walking in a park or the woods, paddling in a pond—interacting with physical objects.

Children acquire knowledge of the world beyond their immediate surroundings by means of books.

Prepare your child for reading success with activities and books. “Decoding” skills are of little use without a furnished mind.

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