Typical emergent literacy skills

According to the Iowa Early Learning Standards, typically developing infants and toddlers will:

  • explore or show interest in books by picking them up, mouthing them, carrying them or flipping through pages
  • focus on the book or the reader when hearing stories read to him/her
  • gaze at or point to pictures in books
  • respond to or engage in songs, rhyming games or finger plays

They will also grasp and/or manipulate a variety of objects in his/her environment.

In addition, toddlers will:

  • point to, label and/or talk about objects, event or people within books
  • enjoy and repeat songs, rhymes, or fingerplays
  • answer simple questions related to books

They will also scribble spontaneously, usually using a fist grip.

Typically developing Preschoolers (children 3 to 5) will:

  • express an interest and enjoyment in listening to books and attempt to read familiar books
  • display book handling knowledge
  • show an awareness of environmental print such as pointing to familiar words or letters
  • identify some alphabet letters by their shapes, especially those in his or her name
  • recognize the printed form of his or her name in a variety of contexts
  • show increasing comprehension of a story through retelling the story and/or recognizing story elements such as the plot or characters
  • demonstrates awareness that language is made up of words, parts of words, and sounds in words

They will also attempt to communicate with others using scribbles, shapes, pictures and/or letters in writing; experiment with a variety of writing tools; use expressive language to share intended meaning of drawings and writings; and start to demonstrate an interest in learning to write letters, especially the letters in his/her name.

This Literacy Milestones chart provides a summary of what your child should be doing in the early years of literacy development. It also provides suggestions for types of books you might have available for your child and what you can do support early literacy development.

Resources for families and caregivers

These easy to read articles focus upon things that families can do every day to improve emergent literacy skills.