Early literacy is everything a child knows about reading and writing before he or she can read or write.

Based on research, the first iteration of ECRR identified six early literacy skills that children must know before they can learn to read.

Print Motivation

Being interested in and enjoying books

Why is it important?

A child who experiences books and reading as positive or enjoyable will be more likely to want to learn to read on their own. Motivation is important because learning to read is HARD WORK!

It’s important that we make sure our children start reading and listening to books from day one and that they have a good time with books. 

What Can You Do to Help Build this Skill?

  • Have fun!
  • Read books you both like
  • Stop (or shift gears) when it is no longer fun. Length of time is not important; enjoyment is!

Print Awareness

Noticing print everywhere, knowing how to handle a book, and knowing how to follow the written word on the page

Why is it important?

Children have to be aware of words before they can read them. They need to know how books work–the front cover, what’s upside down, which page to start on, how to look from left to right.

When kids are comfortable with books, from knowing how to open a book to understanding what those black squiggles are, they can concentrate on starting to read the words.

What Can You Do to Help Build this Skill?

  • Read board books that your child can handle on his/her own; let him/her turn the pages as you read together.
  • Sometimes point to the words as you read.
  • Talk about print even when you are not reading together. Look for letters and words on signs, labels, and lists.

Letter Knowledge

Knowing that letters are different from each other, knowing letter names and sounds, and recognizing letters everywhere

Why is it important?

To read words, children have to understand that a word is made up of individual letters.

What Can You Do to Help Build this Skill?

  • Look at and talk about different shapes (letters are based on shapes).
  • Play “same and different” type games.
  • Look at “I Spy” type books.
  • Notice different types of letters (“a” or “A”) on signs and in books.
  • Read ABC books.
  • Talk about and draw the letters of a child’s own name.


Knowing all kinds of words

Why is it important?

It’s much easier to read a word when it’s a word you already know. Children with bigger vocabularies have an easier time when they start to read, since it’s much easier for them to make sense of what they’re sounding out.

What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?

  • Encourage children to learn their native or home language first; this makes learning another language (speaking and reading) easier later.
  • Talk with children in positive and conversational ways; commands and “no’s” do not encourage language development.
  • Carry on lots of conversations with children.
  • Explain the meanings of new words.
  • Read books! Picture books use a different vocabulary than casual spoken conversation.

Phonological Awareness

Hearing and playing with the smaller sounds of words

Why is it important?

Children who can hear how words “come apart” into separate sounds will be more successful at “sounding out” words when they start to read.

Knowing when two words rhyme, recognizing words that have the same beginning or ending sounds, and identifying syllables are all examples of phonological awareness.

What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?

  • Sing songs; most break words up into one syllable per note. Reading works with syllables also.
  • Recite rhymes; rhymes depend upon ending sounds.
  • Play with tongue twisters.
  • Pick a sound for the day. Notice it at the beginning of words and at the end of words.

Narrative Skills

Describing things and events, telling stories, knowing the order of events, and making predictions

Why Is It Important?

When children can describe something or retell stories, it shows that they are comprehending what they are reading. Understanding what they’re reading is crucial to helping them stay motivated to keep reading.

What Can You Do to Help Build This Skill?

  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage conversations rather than yes/no or right/wrong answers.
  • Talk about your day and its series of events.
  • Mix up the events in a story; make it silly!
  • Guess what comes next—or come up with a different ending.
  • Read stories without words; they really help focus on this skill.
  • Name objects, feelings, and events.