Children’s literacy



When referring to literacy in the early years, school age children may come to mind. However, researchers all agree that language and literacy development begins from birth. As babies begin to interact with the people around them, they are learning how language works and are gaining an understanding of how to communicate effectively. Through play, children can transfer this knowledge to other contexts and begin to connect spoken language to written language as literacy skills develop (Mielonen & Paterson, 2009).
Parents and caregivers play a vital role in supporting early literacy development. Research suggests that children who grow up in literacy rich homes are more likely to do better at school. This means that the more you can read to your child, use a large range of vocabulary, provide drawing materials, spend time playing games and singing, the better the outcome will be.
At Explore & Develop, educators focus on using language in all its forms. They strongly believe that singing, talking, reading and drawing with children of all ages is crucial and will lay the foundation for spoken and written communication to emerge.

An example of ways that educators focus on literary is this beautiful book from Explore & Develop Annandale. It was developed with the children from their Possum rooms to assist in learning the alphabet. The children searched the streets of Annandale with their families on an architectural alphabet hunt. You can download a copy here

Kind Regards

Belinda Ludlow



Oral language forms the foundation for literacy as children begin to understand the meaning of words and sounds, which is when phonological awareness begins to develop. A child’s understanding of the meaning of words will translate to understanding what they are reading and therefore, they will be more competent in decoding different texts.

Language learning begins at birth and there are many ways families can support this.

Babies to Toddlers:

  • Copy the sounds and facial expressions your baby makes. Speak slowly and emphasise the rise and fall of the sounds. Talk to them often from day one.
  • Sing with your child, even if you are just making up the words. Sing nursery rhymes if you can as they teach rhythm, rhyme and repetition.
  • Talk about everything you are doing and point out interesting things you see around you, including words to describe emotions.
  • Have fun with words that rhyme and words that describe a sound, such as animal and vehicle noises.
  • Listen to your child. Respond to your toddler’s questions but avoid jumping in with the answer all the time. For example, if your child asks, ‘What’s that over there?’ You could say, ‘What do you think it is?’

Preschoolers to School age:

  • Play rhyming games such as ‘Can you think of words that sound like ball?’ Hall, fall, small etc.
  • Play games such as ‘I Spy’ using the first letter of a word or a colour.
  • Talk about the past and future – Things they can recall and activities they are looking forward to.
  • Share stories at mealtimes, make up stories at bedtime, sing songs and have fun with silly language!


Children begin to learn to read when they have lots of experience with books and other print material from birth. Children will begin to read by looking at the pictures, pointing out and naming familiar objects, noticing patterns such as rhythm and rhyme and then later, recognising letters and words in the text.

Babies to Toddlers:
  • Read aloud to them every day, anything you are reading. When reading books, make the animal sounds, be animated, have fun!  – They will learn that books are pleasurable.
  • Point out objects and actions in the pictures – They will learn that words are coming from the page.
  • Choose ‘touch and feel’, ‘lift the flap’ and board books as well as books with repetition – Very young children are sensory learners.
  • Encourage your child to dramatise the actions in the book such as hopping like a kangaroo.
Preschoolers to School age:
  • Point to the words as you read them – it teaches them that English is written from left to right. You could also ask them to find a familiar letter in the words if they are ready.
  • Choose different types of books such as factual books that can answer questions about topics they are interested in – this shows them that books provide information and gives them opportunities to problem solve and advance their vocabulary.
  • Ask them questions about the story – ‘What was the story about?’ or ‘Why do you think he did that?’ or ‘What would you do in that situation?’
  • Involve children in reading rhyming books by encouraging them to finish the sentence.
  • Point out street signs, words on food containers and around the shops.
  • Clap syllables of words.
  • Invite your child to make their own story book. Encourage them to think of a storyline, create illustrations and write their words down for them.
  • Read them at least one book a day, give them books to read themselves or with their peers and take them to the library from time to time.  Most importantly, reading should be fun.

“The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”

Mem Fox


Babies and toddlers need to first begin making marks such as scribbles, lines and circles with a range of materials.  There is no rush and you can support each step of the process in many ways.

Babies to Toddlers:
  • Provide babies and toddlers with many opportunities to paint with their hands.
  • Provide drawing materials such as chubby crayons, markers and pencils and give them time to explore them independently.
  • Make marks in the outdoor environment using chalk on the pavement, fingers and rakes in the sand, sticks in the dirt or water with paintbrushes on the fence.
  • Show an interest in the marks your child makes. Comment on the patterns and colours they have used.
  • Provide painting with brushes both inside and outside, on the floor and at an easel. Compliment them on their effort and display their work with pride.
Preschoolers to School age:
  • Encourage drawing with a range of materials and begin to introduce new ones such as finer markers, triangular pencils, charcoal and oil pastels.
  • Add drawing opportunities during play such as, adding a book to the doctor’s set or a notepad next to the toy phone.
  • Invite them to write their name on birthday cards – even if it is an unrecognisable mark.
  • Involve them when you are writing a shopping list.
  • Encourage them to talk about their drawings with open ended questions, for example, ‘Tell me about your drawing’, allowing them to describe their marks and symbols in their own way. You could write this down for them and read their words back to them.
  • Invite them to write their name on their artwork, even just their first letter. Or with their permission, write it for them while they are watching.
  • Provide materials to play with that have letters on them such as alphabet puzzles, letter blocks, magnetic letters on the fridge and magazines for cutting.
  • Invite your child to make their own book with illustrations and write some words if they are ready.


Department of Education & Training (2009). Belonging, Being, Becoming – The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia.

Explore & Develop Transition to School Program Booklet

Fox, M. (2001). Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.

Mielonen, A. & Paterson, W. (2009). Developing Literacy through Play. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education 3(1).

Phillips, L. & Harris, P. (2017). How to encourage literacy in young children (and beyond) –

Raising Children Network – (Developing Literacy/Literacy Activities)

Strickland, D. & Riley-Ayers, S. (2006). Early Literacy: Policies and Practice in the Preschool Years. National Institute for Early Education Research. Issue 10.


All Explore & Develop services are individually owned and operated by committed franchise owners who have been carefully selected because of their dedication, skills and passion for ensuring that every child gets a great start in life. 


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