Literacy Development: A Guide

literacy development

Literacy development is the process of learning words, sounds, and language. Children develop literacy skills to learn to read and write confidently and improve their communication skills. The stages of literacy development vary depending on the child but this guide gives a fundamental outline of what a professional should understand if they are to help children. Understanding literacy development in children is key for helping them in terms of their education and future beyond. Comprehension of literacy development and how to address each of the stages of literacy development will help set up educators, students, and all involved in the lives of children for success.

Why Literacy Development Matters?

No one denies that reading and writing is crucial to one’s education, and the best time to learn is when one is a child. This must be understood in order to effectively help children within each stage of their early literacy development.

Some reasons why early literacy development should be developed:

  • Children with strong reading abilities struggle less with their schoolwork and have a resilient approach to their education – this translates into future success.
  • Literacy skills promote independent learning and encourage consistent growth in and out of the classroom.
  • Literacy development affects the way students communicate and solve problems. In addition to this, those with strong literacy skills usually have improved cognitive ability.

The Five Stages of Literacy Development

As a child grows older and demonstrates the key stages of literacy development they will enhance their reading and writing ability. The five stages of literacy development include emergent literacy, alphabetic fluency, words and patterns, intermediate reading, and advanced reading. Each stage of literacy development helps the child move forward and become a stronger student. Keep in mind that a child’s current age group doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re at that step in their early literacy development.

Stage 1: Emergent Literacy

4-6 years old.

As this beginning stage of literacy development, a child begins to understand letters and words. While many of the behaviors of the emergent literacy stage are not fully formed and irregular, these are still some of the first signs that a child is well on its way to literacy growth.

Here are Some Behaviors of Stage 1 Learners:

  • Pretending to be able to read children’s books.
  • The ability to recognize the first letter of their name.
  • Singing the ABCs, even if unable to identify letters separately.
  • The ability to recognize letters and perhaps even their sound in the environment around them.

Stage 2: Alphabetic Fluency

6-7 years old.

As a child ages and becomes more comfortable with learning words and letters, they enter the alphabetic fluency stage of literacy development.

Here are Some Behaviors of Stage 2 Learners:

  • They no longer “pretend” to read.
  • Finger-pointing to words while reading them.
  • Beginning to recognize words.
  • Admitting that they’re incapable of reading certain words.
  • Using pictures and context clues to figure out certain words.
  • Reading out loud word by word.

Stage 3: Words and Patterns

7-9 years old.

Sometimes referred to as the “transitional” stage of literacy development, the words and patterns stage is when children begin to develop strong reading skills. This is the stage when children can vary the most in terms of skills and may leap through many stages of literacy development.

Here are Some Behaviors of Stage 3 Learners:

  • Less decoding of words and stronger ability to comprehend readings.
  • Self-correction when what is read is unclear.
  • Easier time grouping letters and sounding them out with precision.
  • Able to recognize words that pop up – most often, automatically.
  • Less reliance on context clues to make sense of unknown words.
  • Ability to spell complex consonant words like “-tch”.

Stage 4: Intermediate Reading

9-11 years old.

During the intermediate reading stage of literacy development, children begin to rely more on their own abilities, rather than what is provided to them in school or by teachers, to learn new words. This is also when children become able to write out sentences with accuracy and speak more fluently.

Here are Some Behaviors of Stage 4 Learners:

  • Reading new information and writing for various purposes.
  • Less struggling with independent reading.
  • Taking in and exploring different literary perspectives.
  • Reading longer texts, such as textbooks, with little difficulty.
  • Ambition and motivation to learn new words.

Stage 5: Advanced Reading

11-14 years old.

This is the last stage of literacy development, where advanced reading becomes fully fluent for a child and they are capable of relying on independent reading to learn new things. Reading and writing are not very difficult and students can process complex readings during this stage.

Here are Some Behaviors of Stage 5 Learners:

  • The desire to read myriad types of materials.
  • Reading becomes a daily tool for learning new information.
  • The ability to create long texts such as essays or research reports.
  • Readers usually have a well-defined understanding of the meaning and semantics of words.

SupportPay encourages Child Literacy Month and all professionals who aspire to help children in their respective fields.

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