How to support literacy development in the early years

literacy developement

Literacy development is an essential area of children’s growth and in many ways provides the foundation for lifelong learning. Literacy integrates speaking, listening, singing, viewing and moving, with critical thinking to make meaning (Australian Early Development Census, 2018a).

Here at Sydney Early Education Centres (SEEC), Literacy, Language and Communication are fundamental elements of our Learning for Life Curriculum. Our knowledge of child development combined with current research-based teaching practices, enables us to create literacy-rich environments that support your child’s literacy learning.

There are 5 early literacy components that children need to master in order to be successful literacy learners. They include:

  • Oral Language
  • Vocabulary and conceptual knowledge​
  • Concepts about print and books​ 
  • Phonological awareness
  • The alphabetic principle​

Bilingualism & Multilingualism

Children who have a strong foundation in their first language are more successful at learning English as their second language. It supports their cognitive development as well as being an essential factor in the development of children’s self-concept and a strong sense of identity (Early Childhood Australia, 2021).

At SEEC, our Mandarin teachers provide lessons across our learning communities and we encourage families to continue speaking and learning in their first language.

We have compiled some examples of how children are engaged in literacy rich learning environments at SEEC.

Early learning community

In both communities, we always begin by building strong, secure attachments with children and take time to learn about their interests, strengths and abilities. Children learn best when they feel safe and secure. They need to feel interested as well as engaged in the learning experiences being offered to them.

In our Community, we embed a range of teaching strategies into our daily rhythms and rituals. While they may appear simple at first glance, they are very intentional and purposeful.

A women sits on the floor reading to a small child in her lap while a second child in orange overalls looks on
Literacy and language development programs in action

Engaging in lots and lots of conversation!

This may involve our teachers and educators modelling clear, rich language, narrating their own and children’s actions and play and asking open-ended questions. This technique involves giving children time to respond (we suggest waiting 7 seconds after asking a question).

Singing and dancing with actions

This allows children to begin to pick up on sounds, intonations, rhythm and the connection between language and actions (meaning making!).

Reading, reading, reading…

..and then reading some more! Allowing for repetition provides children opportunities for memory and vocabulary building. When children grow and develop, they build up their capacity to explore text structures, letters, phonic, rhyme, sentence formation and so forth (AEDC, 2018a).

Preschool community

A small child holds a yellow pencil and is marking white paper with an open story book in from out of her.

Language helps to organise children’s thinking and allows them to develop skills such as memory, problem solving, creative thinking, predicting and hypothesising. Recognising the connection between written symbols and oral language helps prepare children to be ready to read and write”

(AEDC, 2018a)

When children grow, develop and transition into our Preschool Community, SEEC builds on the previously mentioned strategies. When incorporating a wide variety of literacy learning materials that give the children opportunities in an organic way. This works to intentionally engage children in literacy rich discussions and experiences. Some of the ways in which we do this include:

Exposing children to a variety of environmental print

This amazing environmental print is all around us and our SEEC learning spaces are no exception! We intentionally include a variety of print into the children’s learning environments including books and displays relevant to their learning projects. e.g. Menus and recipes in our kitchens, name tags for the children’s lockers, signs and where relevant and meaningful. This helps by adding more context-specific print vocabulary and imagery.

Get reading

Building on reading experiences from the Early Learning Community we begin to introduce a wider variety of texts and implement more intentional strategies. Such as, moving our fingers along the words as we read to them and asking more detailed questions and making comments throughout the story.

Modelling writing and encouraging mark making and early writing

We provide a variety of opportunities for children to make marks and express themselves and provide meaningful and relevant examples of print in the correct NSW Foundation Handwriting Font. Some of the ways we support children to develop their early writing skills are by encouraging them to:

  • Use name tags. This helps to develop their name recognition and label their work with their names. Ensuring we point out and model the correct use of upper- and lower-case letters.
  • Talk about the meaning behind their work. This helps to support them to develop their understanding that print conveys messages and different texts have different purposes.

Literacy at home

Create your very own ‘book nook’

Creating a book nook in your home is one of the best ways that we can support children to develop their literacy learning. One of the best ways to do this is to read to them daily. Find a quiet corner, make it comfortable with cushions and blankets. Your child will be drawn to this area as a safe cosy space to enjoy books.

Play word games

Play word games such as ‘I spy’. One player gives the first letter of the object as a clue. e.g. If the player chooses a fence, they say, ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with F’. Players take turns to call out guesses until someone gets the right answer. The first person to guess correctly gets the next turn to choose an object.

For younger children, you can use colours or descriptive words such as ‘I spy something that is red’ or ‘I spy something that is brown and green, tall and grows in the forest”

Paint and draw

Children at SEEC drawing

When painting and drawing, talk to your children about their artworks. e.g. “Can you tell me about your drawing?”. As your children grow and develop it is important to support and acknowledge their writing attempts positively. What we may perceive as a ‘mistake’ is actually an important stage in their writing development.

Sing songs

Sing songs or nursery rhymes. Especially, songs with lots of rhyming – the more, the better! e.g. ‘hey diddle diddle’ or ‘little bo peep’.

Further tips for reading at home

  • Read aloud and point out the title, author and illustrator
  • Ask questions like –  “What do you think this book might be about?”
  • Ask your children what do they think might happen on that page using the illustrations as clues or what do they think might happen next?
  • Discuss the characters in the story – “How do you think the three little pigs might feel?” or “What do you think the three little pigs should have done instead of _?” 
  • Point out rhyming words, alliteration and beginning sounds in the stories you read. 
  • Take time to reflect on the story “What happened in the book?”, “Who was the character in the story?”, “Would it be fun to be in the book?”

We truly hope that these insights have helped to kick start your children’s love of reading. You might enjoy reading some further information about how to support language and literacy skills for children aged 12-24 months old or explore some additional literacy activities for children (0-8 years). If you would like to find out more about our centres you can book a tour or send us a message.

Written By

Natalie Lavelle – CEEC Educational Leader


  • Australian Early Development Census. (2018a). Guide to language and cognitive skills (school-based).
  • Australian Early Development Census. (2018b). Guide to communication skills and general knowledge.
  • Early Childhood Australia. (Accessed: 2021). Supporting language development in the early years. Presentation.
  • Fellowes, J., & Oakley, G. (2010). Language, literacy and early childhood education. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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