Growing Readers Review: What is Early Literacy?

Infant holding a book

The Growing Readers program at Bright Horizons helps you share the joy of reading, cultivate an appreciation for books, and foster early literacy skills with your child. A panel of early education experts from our centers and schools reviews and recommends high-quality, first-rate children’s books for all ages that your family can enjoy reading together. Our selections — Bright Horizons Books of Excellence —represent some of the best writing in children’s literature, and include new titles, timeless classics, and hidden gems. Each quarterly review features a theme — like history, nature, or photography — that will spark discussion with your child about new concepts, and help to guide them through life’s experiences. Bright Horizons Growing Readers makes it easy for you to choose quality literature that will enrich your child’s life.

Early literacy in young children begins with intensely listening and processing the sounds in their world and experimenting with making sounds and words on their own. As a parent, you help your child develop literacy by creating opportunities for conversation and communication. Verbal interaction at home and with family members builds their foundation for a love of language and books, as well as important pre-reading and writing skills.

When you foster early literacy at home through talking, singing, and reading, your child will learn that language is as natural as breathing, and reading is as natural as talking. The more that your children are exposed to reading experiences, the more their brain makes the connections for language, literacy, and learning


Children learn language best through direct personal communication and by listening carefully to the conversations of others. When your baby gurgles and you respond with words or a smile, you convey the give and take of communication. From cooing and babbling, to his first words, your baby learns that language is a powerful tool. Reading to infants is also important to literacy development.


During their first two years, most children advance from single words and phrases to conversing in short sentences. Verbally interacting and reading every day with your toddler has a lasting impact on language, social, and cognitive development. Toddlers even begin to understand that certain kinds of intonations are used when reading books and this helps their engagement in the story and retention of the content. When children are read to frequently, they often recite key phrases or words from favorite books, which in turn, builds confidence and an interest in reading.


Three- and 4-year-old children make huge strides in literacy. They begin to "read" their favorite books by themselves, focusing mostly on retelling the story from the pictures. They listen intently to add words and phrases to their growing vocabulary, and to learn grammatical rules. By asking lots of questions and experimenting with language, they evolve into active talkers. Some preschoolers are ready to begin deciphering those squiggly lines on the pages of their books as they make the connection between spoken and written language


By the age of 4 ½ to 5, children are moving towards mastering the language of their culture, a difficult and marvelous achievement. A child's speaking vocabulary grows from a few hundred words to more than a thousand and they understand many more than that. They are able to comprehend the complicated rules of grammar and syntax. Pre-kindergarteners can now participate in more elaborate conversations, use words to solve problems, and make up stories and songs on their own.


Many children arrive at kindergarten with a rich vocabulary and an awareness of printed language. Some have the necessary foundation to begin reading; others need concentrated experiences and focused instruction. Most kindergartners are considered to be emergent readers. They thrive when exposed to literacy-rich environments and experiences. Different approaches to reading instruction that focus on increasing your child’s alphabetic, phonemic, and broader phonological awareness, enable him/her to decode words.

School Age

Children's writing emerges rapidly in this period. As children become more proficient and language-aware writers, some go through a period of insisting on asking for conventional spellings. They are thirsty for language knowledge. This makes vocabulary development, reading and pre-reading for comprehension, word awareness, spelling, and writing very important to their continual literacy development at this age.

Written by: About Growing Readers

July 1, 2020

About Growing Readers

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These parent resources and book reviews, developed by our expert panel with specialties in literature, will help you select the best books for your child, at every age and stage. Reading quality children’s books together strengthens your child’s early development.