Confused about an early literacy term you’ve heard about or read online? Keep reading!
Watching your little one experience all of the “firsts” of childhood is so exciting! The first day they crawl, walk, and sleep through the night will be memories you cherish forever.
And another “first” that is super exciting is watching them learn to read!
So much goes into learning how to read. As your little one starts out on their literacy development path, you’ll be hearing new terms that you might not know or understand.
Keep reading to learn about 5 important early literacy terms that you need to know as you help your little one learn how to read.
1. Phonemic Awareness
One early literacy term you might hear often is phonemic awareness. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound. Phonemic awareness is the ability to detect and manipulate those sounds in spoken words. It’s the ability to understand that sounds in spoken language work together to make words. When a little one demonstrates phonemic awareness, they are able to play with words!
You may hear or see the term CVC word when learning about early literacy. This refers to a decodable word that is made up of a consonant, vowel, & consonant, such as “cat.” CVCC words are made up of a consonant, vowel, consonant, and consonant, such as “hand.” CCVC words are made up of a consonant, consonant, vowel, and consonant, such as “skip.”
Not only are words made up of consonants & vowels, but they are also made up of:
- Consonant Digraphs: Two letters stand together to form a single sound, such as “ch” in “chug” or “sh” in “shut.”
- Consonant Blends: Two letters are blended together, but each sound can be heard, such as “bl” in “block” or “fr” in “frog.”
- Onsets: The part of the syllable that is just before the vowel in that syllable. In “man,” the /m/ sound is the onset.
- Rimes: A syllable’s vowel and the sound immediately after. In “man,” the rime is the /an/ sound.
Another early literacy term that’s important to understand is phonics. Whereas phonemic awareness is all about spoken language, phonics is all about the relationship between sounds and written language. Phonics teaches little ones to connect letters with sounds, break words into sounds, and blend those sounds into words.
An awareness of print is also important when developing phonics skills. Exposing our little ones to books and other reading material from a very young age helps to foster their print awareness and introduces them to the letters of the alphabet.
It’s also important to point out environmental print, which is the print of everyday life. Road signs, cereal boxes, candy wrappers, or labels are all great to point out to help your little one see letters all around them.
Reading comprehension is another important early literacy term. Recognizing sight words or sounding out decodable words is the first step for our little ones on their independent reading journey…but they can’t stop there!
The next step is understanding the meaning of what they read, which is reading comprehension. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading!
Comprehension includes identifying the main idea & details, making inferences & drawing conclusions, identifying patterns, recognizing the author’s purpose for writing, summarizing, identifying story elements like character, setting, problem, and solution, and so much more!
Our little ones can start practicing their comprehension skills way before they can read independently. Asking them questions while you read aloud to them is perfect for starting to strengthen these skills now so that they’ll be ready to use them when they can read on their own.
A fourth important early literacy term that you might hear is reading fluency. Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with expression.
Like mentioned above, little ones begin their reading journey by sounding out decodable words. They are focusing all of their energy on reading the words on the page, so they are not able to actually put meaning to those words (comprehension).
That’s where fluency comes in…it’s the bridge between word recognition and comprehension.
When a little one can read fluently, they are able to read the words on the page accurately and quickly, which allows them to spend more time comprehending the words’ meanings. This will then allow them to give expression to their reading, since they understand what’s happening in the story.
Your little one will go from reading in a very monotone voice, “The cat chased the mouse” to reading with full expression, “The cat chased the mouse!”
The last early literacy term that’s important to understand is vocabulary. Vocabulary is all of the words in our language. Vocabulary is crucial to reading comprehension…if a little one can read a word but doesn’t know what it means, they won’t be able to comprehend what they’re reading. In general, the more words our little ones have in their vocabulary banks, the better readers they will be!
There are four types of vocabulary: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. When little ones hear more words spoken at home, they have larger vocabularies and enter school knowing more words.
One statistic states that if you read to your little one for 20 minutes a day, they will hear 1.8 million words per year! Just imagine all of the vocabulary words they will be exposed to just from that one simple daily activity!
If you want to read daily to your little ones and help expand their vocabularies, check out our Book-a-Day Challenge & keep track of your reading!
Early Literacy Matters
Early literacy skills are so important, and these 5 early literacy terms are crucial for parents to understand.
As your little one continues to grows & starts school, you may see these terms on report cards or hear them during parent-teacher conferences. In order for everyone to be on the same page, it’s important to learn these terms now so you’ll have a better understanding of how to help your little become an independent reader in the future!
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