HomeQuest for LiteracyLiteracy Development Starts at Home: Parents Play a Crucial Role

Literacy Development Starts at Home: Parents Play a Crucial Role

Jillian Sciacca, M.A. Ed | The Children’s Book Review | December 19, 2016

Most children learn to read when they go to kindergarten. While this is true, it is important to consider the significance of literacy development during the first five years of a child’s life. As parents, we play a crucial role in preparing our children to become successful readers and writers. A study published in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy revealed that “the best predictor for later reading development is the quality of the home environment,” (Edwards, p.57, 2014). A second study published in the Stanford News concluded that “early exposure to and experiences with more books at home and literacy-related activities such as parental book reading, storytelling, and singing songs in toddlerhood is beneficial for preschools’ development of vocabulary and decoding skills,” (Carey, 2013). This is an important finding because a child’s vocabulary development plays a significant part in their ability to comprehend what they are reading. There is so much substantial research on this topic and numerous other studies have concluded that children who are raised in literacy rich homes, do better in school and parent involvement plays a huge role in early literacy success. As a mother of a two-year-old, an advocate for early literacy development, and a former elementary school teacher this information is far too important not to share.

As a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, I quickly became aware of how children who entered my classroom in August with basic literacy skills excelled, while students who lacked basic literacy skills struggled. The good news is that helping your child develop the basic literacy skills they need to be successful when they enter kindergarten can be both uncomplicated and enjoyable. I have created a list of my top five strategies that will help you ensure that your child shows up to kindergarten with the basic literacy skills they need to excel and enjoy reading.

Top Five Home Based Literacy Activities


Pretend Play

Engaging your child in pretend play goes beyond fun for them. As children participate in language rich play at home, they are developing their vocabulary. Vocabulary happens to play a huge part in a child’s literacy successes when they enter kindergarten. “Children who acquire a substantial vocabulary are often able to think more deeply, express themselves better, and actually learn new things more quickly. Generally speaking, the larger a child’s vocabulary, the better a reader he will be,” (Neuman, n.d.). So the next time, you find yourself baking pretend cookies, in your pretend pan, with your little pretend spatula, pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Create Your Own Books

Use your personal photos to create a book for your child. You can cut and paste or use an online book creation tool. After my last family vacation, I created a book for my daughter that included pictures with short descriptions from our adventure. Seven months later, this is still one of her favorite books. I can guarantee that your child will love to be the star of their very own book.

Provide Opportunities for Writing

I know it seems logical to hide the crayons from your toddler, but don’t do it! I realize this may go against your best judgment. I have a two-year-old, so trust me, I understand the damage that can be done with a marker in a matter of seconds. Think about it this way, half of literacy is reading, but the other half is writing. Providing your child an opportunity to experiment with writing is crucial. Give them a designated area and supplies to practice their drawing and writing. Children learn to read by learning to write. Have them tell you about their pictures and writing. Praise them for everything they do. If they write a scribble and inform you that it says their name, say “good job!” You can and should model good writing for them, but just be sure to keep this activity positive and encouraging. The more they draw and write, the more their skills will improve, so encourage them every step of the way.

Explore Letters

The more you can expose children to the letters before they head off to kindergarten, the better. Magnetic letters that you can put on the refrigerator are a great way to introduce the letters to your child. While you are cooking dinner, your child can be exploring the alphabet. Have your child go on a letter hunt and look for the letter M. Initially it will be helpful to introduce a few letters at a time. Once they have mastered those letters, you can add a few more. After your child has learned the letter names, you can start working on letter sounds. Have your child find the letter that makes the /m/ sound. Then have them find an object in the house that starts with the /m/ sound. This will take a little practice up front, but soon you will find that cooking your chicken pot pie has become a lot easier with your child engaged in a meaningful activity!

Explore Books

Take story time at your house to a new level. As you read a story with your child, ask them questions. “What do you think is going to happen next?” “Why did the dog do that?” “Where are they going?” “Do you think that would be fun?” With younger children, it is not always necessary to even read the book. Their attention spans a quite short, so if they are not interested in listening to the story, just take their lead and talk about the pictures. Children also enjoy acting out books. My daughter’s favorite is Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, (luckily her bed is very close to the ground).

As you embark upon 2017, I hope you are feeling motivated to create a home environment that provides literacy rich activities for your little one. Providing your child with opportunities to develop their literacy skills will ensure their literacy success not only in kindergarten but beyond! “The best predictor of reading comprehension, and reading fluency at the end of Grade 4 was letter knowledge at the beginning of the kindergarten,” (Leppanen, Aunola, Niemi, & Nurmi, 2007, p. 559). So while early childhood teachers play a huge part in helping our children to read, we as parents can play an even greater role. Happy reading, writing, exploring, and playing!  


Carey, B. (2013, September 25). Language Gap between Rich and Poor Children begins in

Infancy. Stanford News. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/september/toddler-language-gap-091213.html

Edwards, C. (2014). Maternal Literacy Practices and Toddlers’ Emergent Literacy Skills. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 14(1), 53-79.

Leppanen, U., Aunola, K., Niemi, P. & Nurmi, J., (2007, December). Letter Knowledge Predicts Grade 4 Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension. Science Direct, 18(6), 48–564.

Neuman, S. (n.d.). Scholastic: Early Childhood Today. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/early-literacy-building-vocabulary-build-literacy

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Jill Sciacca, M.S. Ed (Early Childhood Reading and Literacy), has spent time teaching preschool, kindergarten, first grade, and fourth grade. She currently is a faculty member at the University of Phoenix where she teaches for the College of Humanities and Sciences, as well as the College of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her two-year-old daughter Gianna and her husband, Jack. Jill also loves a good adventure and can often be found skiing at Monarch Mountain. She was born and raised in Colorado and has no plans to leave. You can follow Jill on Twitter @jillian_sciacca and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/Jillian-Sciacca).

  • Great article Jill! Early childhood literacy is critical to settling children up for academic success. Thanks for spreading the word.

    December 20, 2016
  • So true – early literacy is key to future academic success. But if your child is dyslexic, no amount of reading at home is going to fix the problem. Parents of struggling readers need to know it’s not their fault – and there is help out there. Thanks, I enjoy your blog!

    January 3, 2017

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