Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 370, Chapter 4: Early Literacy; From Birth to School

Phases of Literacy Development


Phase 1: Awareness and Exploration

Begins at birth and continues through preschool. Children become curious about print. Will begin to recognize logos and environmental labels. Starts scribbling and can start to identify letters and sounds. This is a great stage to incorporate environmental print. This means labeling items around the room as well as having common items with print on around the room.

Phase 2: Experimental Reading and Writing

Starts around kindergarten. Students will understand the basic concept, enjoy having stories read to them, and will start making connections to letters and their sounds, rhyming words. Will also begin to write letters and high-frequency words.

Phase 3: Early Reading and Writing

Starts at 1st grade when students are getting more direct instruction from a teacher. Students will begin to read simple stories and write about things they know. They will develop strategies for comprehension such as making predictions. Start to read more fluently because they are recognizing more words by sight. Begins to understand punctuation and capitalization.

Phase 4: Transitional Reading and Writing

Starts in 2nd grade. Students are reading more fluently and are using more comprehension strategies. Will increase their word identification strategies, sight-word recognition, reading fluency, sustained silent reading, conventional spelling, and proofreading when writing.

Phase 5: Independent and Productive Reading and Writing

Starts in 3rd grade. Students are becoming independent readers and writers. They are extending and refining their literacy skills and strategies.

How Reading Develops

Family is the greatest influence on a child. Family needs to be encouraging of a child’s reading and just exposing them to print. Also, if parents are reading, their children will be more likely to want to read too. “Children begin learning about reading and writing at a very early age by observing and interacting with adults and other children as they use literature in everyday activities” (Vacca, Vacca, & Gove, 2012, p. 107). Children need to learn that print is useful and has meaning.

How Writing Develops

Young children will learn about writing through exploration, this means they will experiment with scribbling. Early scribbling is equivalent to babbling in oral language development.

Older students will use invented spelling. Invented spelling is when students are writing and spelling words how they sound which is not always correct. These students have not quite learned all the rules of spelling yet. Teachers should encourage this, some advantages of doing this are:

  • students are making connections between letters and their sounds
  • students are becoming more independent writers and will ask for less help spelling words
  • students will have more time to write what they want and will be more engaged in their writing

Literate Learning Environments

Literate environments are also very important at a young age. Early readers thrive in environments where an adult or someone the student looks up to has a high regard for reading. Literate environments include allowing students to scribble, draw, and write. Multiple materials should be offered to encourage students to read and write. This environment could include:

  • A book area or library
  • A listening area
  • A Computer area
  • Writing area

Core Language and Literacy Skills

Oral Language Comprehension

This is the ability to speak and listen with understanding. This includes grammar, word meanings, and listening comprehension. Students should be able to quickly recognize words they hear and connect new information with what they already know. Shared book reading, singing songs, fingerplays, storytelling, and dramatic play are just some ways to encourage oral language.



Vocabulary is used to describe the words you know and can use. There are two kinds of vocabulary: receptive (listening) and receptive (talking). Reading aloud is the single most important activity for building knowledge and skills children need for later reading.

Phonological Awareness

This involves hearing the sounds in language separate from the meaning of the word. Teachers should use read-aloud books, nursery rhymes, riddles, songs, and poems that play with language and manipulate sounds.

Alphabet Knowledge

This is the ability to name and write all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Developmental Writing

Developmental writing is the first attempts at spelling words and writing. Writing materials should always be available to students to give them opportunities to write.

Print Knowledge

The ability to recognize print and understand that is works in a specific way. To teach print knowledge, the teacher can collect pictures and have the students label them, writing text under a student’s drawing, and having children identify words in their environment.

Developing Early Literacy Skills

The routines and practices that support the items listed above.

Language Experiences

language experience story is when a student is sharing a story and the teacher is writing it down. This shows the student that what they say can be turned into print and that print has meaning.

Shared reading is when the teacher and beginner readers read and reread favorite stories, songs, poems, and rhymes. This is used to show students what a book is, what an “expert” reader does with a book as it is read, and what makes a story a story.


Vacca, J. L., Vacca, R. T., & Gove, M. K. (2012). Reading and learning to read (8th ed.). New York: Longman.

Classroom Application

This chapter was so important with taking about literacy for our youngest learners. I liked the phases of literacy development. I want to work with the younger students so to see where students are developmentally and where they should be next. It is also important to remember that even though the book stated a phase starting at a certain grade level, all students are different and develop differently. That means that the whole first grade class may not be in the Early Reading and Writing phase, some may be above or below. I just always like to know where students could go next.

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