How Emergent Literacy Can Affect Your Little Toddlers

How Emergent Literacy Can Affect Your Little Toddlers

If you think that “emergent literacy” is just the latest in a long stream of early childhood buzz words, think again. Although your young child might not have the ability to read quite yet, she is developing the skills that will provide a base for her later literacy development. Emergent literacy can affect your little learner in ways that include getting her ready to read, beginning writing development and understanding how people communicate with each other.

Phonemic Awareness

One of the key emergent literacy skills that your young child will have is phonemic awareness, which involves developing the ability to understand that speech is made up of different sounds. As your child grows and learns more about language, he will manipulate different sounds within words, section off sounds and blend sounds. While the spoken language certainly differs from understanding written words, according to the International Reading Association, early acquisition of these skills may indeed predict later reading success.


Without effective communication skills, your child can’t express her emotions, make friends or engage in interactive activities with you and other people. Emergent literacy allows your child to develop communication abilities such as speaking fluently and understanding the sounds that other people make. Through the slowly building literacy processes, your little learner will get a grip on how to talk to you, and other people, in order to get her messages across. While she might not yet have skills to write a journal about her feelings, she can still communicate them when she wants to.

Reading Development

By the time your child reaches the toddler years, he is building the emergent literacy skills to start off on a path to reading progress. This doesn’t mean that he is ready for a flip through the classics of Dickens or Bronte, but he can identify some words. This is particularly true of environmental wording such as signs and logos. The educational experts from Iowa’s Lincoln Elementary School note that by ages 2- to 3-years, most toddlers can recognize common logos and signs in their environments. For example, you are in the grocery store and your 2-year-old points to a bag of crackers on the shelf. He casually says the name on the front of the bag.

Cracker Logo

You freak out because your toddler has just read his first words. Is he a genius? Maybe, but his reading the cracker logo has little to do with that. Instead, he is connecting names with their symbols that he hears and sees in his daily life. Chances are he has had these crackers before and has heard the name many times. While this doesn’t indicate ultra-intelligence, it is a beginning step on the road to reading.


Forcing your tiny tyke to sit down with a paper and pencil to write her first words won’t turn her into a super-star student. Emergent literacy includes the beginning skills necessary to eventually write letters and words. While your child may not have the ability to actually write in the same way that you do, her crayon-streaked scribbles can show off her emergent development.


Scribbling may seem like a more artistic pursuit, but it can also play a part in early literacy. According to the national child development organization Zero to Three, when your child practices her writing, whether it is scribbling or making lines, she is progressively developing abilities that she will use later when she is ready to form letters.

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