Emergent Reader – Part Two

The Principle: Building a strong foundation for literacy begins with a variety of oral language experiences. Learning how to manipulate language comes first. Learning how to enjoy language comes next.

More Practical Applications

Earlier, we discussed oral language and auditory discrimination, which is your child’s ability to differentiate between two letter sounds. In Emergent Reader – Part One, we discussed reading readiness and the practical skills you can help your child develop as he makes the transition from oral to written language.

In this section, we encourage you and your emerging reader to apply the basics. Below is a list of activities you can enjoy with your child as you escort him into the world of literacy:

Initial sounds: Helping your young child develop an awareness of auditory/sound discrimination can be as simple as playing with the first letter of your child’s name. For example, Tim. T-im. Table. Television. Tick-tock. Teeth. This skill takes time, so be patient as your child learns to hear the differences among letter sounds. *(see below for notes about hearing loss and language development).

We use TIDE: Logo recognition is a pre-reading skill most children accomplish early in life. They can spot a McDonald’s sign half a mile down the road. Use product symbols to show your child that he is already a reader. Cut out the words on products he can identify and proudly display them on an “I can read” word wall.

It’s in the news: The newspaper is a rich resource for your child’s emerging pre-reading skills. Have him cut out the letters of his name from the headlines.

Language experience charts: Classroom teachers use this technique to demonstrate writing to young children. However, preschoolers can also enjoy the process of recording an experience.

Similar to an adult’s journal writing, a child dictates an event he experienced while the adult prints the words. This process allows the child to learn the value of his spoken words and to see that they can also be saved and shared. Topics can range from “How to Fly a Kite,” to “Our Trip to the Zoo.”

Let your child be the author: Have your child dictate a story as you write it down in print (not cursive). If you are using a computer, use at least size 16 font. Then have your child illustrate the story and sign the original art work and cover page byline.

To-do lists: Daily planners have become a lifeline to many busy parents. But children also enjoy the feeling of order and importance that a to-do list can bring. For the young child, the list can be a combination of words and pictures. For example, the number one with a picture of a trash bin communicates the message “take out the trash.”


* A note about hearing: Oral language development can be hindered by hearing loss, as well as by limited experiences, stress, poor emotional attachments, neurological compromises, etc. If you suspect that your young child is not hearing all frequencies clearly, you may want to have his hearing evaluated.


** In response to a parent email about language development and hearing loss, here is a suggested summary, by age, of the consonant sounds children acquire in speech.

  • 18 months to 3 years: p,m,h,n,w,b
  • 2 years to 4 years: b,k,g,d,t,ng ( some children do not acquire the t and ng sounds until age 6)
  • 2 1/2 years to 4 years: f,y
  • 3 years to 6 years: r,l,s (some children do not acquire the s sound until age 8)
  • 3 1/2 to 7 or 8 years: ch,sh,z
  • 4 to 7 or 8 years: j,v

Source: Speech, Language, & Hearing Disorders by Oyer, Crowe, and Haas. College-Hill Press, 1987

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