Devel­op­ing lit­er­a­cy is a com­plex, mul­ti­step process requir­ing time, prac­tice, and resources. You might be won­der­ing, “why is lit­er­a­cy impor­tant in preschool?” 

What is lit­er­a­cy? Lit­er­a­cy is the abil­i­ty to read and write. As defined by the Nation­al Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics, lit­er­a­cy is the “abil­i­ty to use print­ed and writ­ten infor­ma­tion to func­tion in soci­ety, to achieve one’s goals, and to devel­op one’s knowl­edge and potential.”

Lit­er­a­cy is impor­tant in preschool because the atti­tude toward read­ing and writ­ing that chil­dren devel­op dur­ing their ear­ly years as they inter­act with lan­guage and books is a crit­i­cal aspect of emerg­ing lit­er­a­cy. 

Emerg­ing lit­er­a­cy skills form the foun­da­tion for children’s lat­er lit­er­a­cy devel­op­ment. Researchers have found that emerg­ing lit­er­a­cy skills pre­dict children’s future read­ing and writ­ing skills and pro­fi­cien­cy in using lan­guage to express thoughts and ideas. While explic­it read­ing and writ­ing instruc­tion typ­i­cal­ly begins in kinder­garten, children’s foun­da­tion­al lit­er­a­cy skills start to devel­op at birth. An infant’s efforts to grab for a book and bat at its pages to show inter­est, a toddler’s scrib­ble, or a 4‑year-old’s fas­ci­na­tion with sto­ry time are all foun­da­tion­al read­ing and writ­ing milestones. 

How do you teach literacy to preschoolers?

A well-equipped lit­er­a­cy learn­ing cen­ter is one of the most effec­tive ways to pro­mote and devel­op children’s emerg­ing lit­er­a­cy skills. An effec­tive lit­er­a­cy learn­ing cen­ter is well-stocked with var­i­ous books and lit­er­a­cy mate­ri­als that reflect children’s inter­ests, cul­tur­al back­grounds, and learn­ing preferences. 

It is impor­tant to intro­duce read­ing and writ­ing togeth­er. Young chil­dren need emerg­ing read­ing skills to help them learn about writ­ing, and they need emerg­ing writ­ing skills to learn about read­ing. A lit­er­a­cy cen­ter that con­nects the two areas of emerg­ing lit­er­a­cy devel­op­ment can effec­tive­ly sup­port and bol­ster children’s lit­er­a­cy skills.

Addi­tion­al­ly, it is ben­e­fi­cial to include lit­er­a­cy mate­ri­als and activ­i­ties in all of your learn­ing centers—the sci­ence cen­ter, art cen­ter, block cen­ter, pre­tend play cen­ter, and wood­work­ing cen­ter. Strate­gi­cal­ly plac­ing lit­er­a­cy mate­ri­als through­out children’s play areas will rein­force the role of lit­er­a­cy in all areas of learning.

Preschool Literacy Activities


Book­mak­ing is a fun and reward­ing activ­i­ty that encour­ages children’s cre­ativ­i­ty and self-expression.

First, sta­ple sev­er­al pieces of blank paper togeth­er or punch holes in blank pages to place in a binder. A binder allows chil­dren to add pages lat­er on if they wish. Pro­vide pen­cils, crayons, and mark­ers in a loca­tion that is eas­i­ly acces­si­ble to the children.

Encour­age preschool­ers to fol­low their inter­ests when cre­at­ing their books. Some chil­dren will enjoy cre­at­ing fic­tion­al sto­ries. Oth­ers may wish to make an ABC book, an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal sto­ry, or a how-to guide. If chil­dren have dif­fi­cul­ty select­ing a top­ic, ask them ques­tions to spark their imag­i­na­tion. You may want to ask child about a sto­ry they told you ear­li­er in the day or an activ­i­ty they engaged in recently. 

As the preschool­ers work on their books, encour­age them to use some of the foun­da­tion­al fea­tures of books, including

  • title;
  • author;
  • page num­bers;
  • set­ting;
  • essen­tial plot ele­ments (begin­ning, mid­dle, end, conflict);
  • char­ac­ters.

Chil­dren can decide whether or not their books will include print­ed words in addi­tion to their draw­ings, scrib­bles, and oth­er marks. Encour­age preschool­ers to make revi­sions and con­tin­u­ous­ly think about their sto­ries. Dis­play fin­ished books in the lit­er­a­cy cen­ter and invite chil­dren to read from their books dur­ing sto­ry time. 

Book­mak­ing can also be a group project. The group can work togeth­er to select a top­ic and then brain­storm ideas to include in their book. Each child can draw pic­tures or write a short sto­ry or thought relat­ed to the topic. 

Name Writing

A dai­ly sign-in rou­tine in the lit­er­a­cy cen­ter is a sim­ple writ­ing activ­i­ty that preschool­ers will enjoy. For many chil­dren, their first name is one of the first words they learn to write, and they often take a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in learn­ing and per­fect­ing this task. Suc­cess in writ­ing their name con­firms children’s grow­ing com­pe­ten­cies in alpha­bet knowl­edge and print aware­ness and lays the ground­work for more com­plex and struc­tured writ­ing composition.

When the chil­dren enter your pro­gram each morn­ing, ask them to sign in. They can write their names on a sheet of paper on a clip­board or a white­board. Some pro­grams use pages with children’s pho­tos print­ed in a col­umn and spaces for children’s sig­na­tures to the right.

As with oth­er activ­i­ties, the process is more impor­tant for chil­dren than the prod­uct. Some chil­dren will make a mark that may not resem­ble an actu­al let­ter or only write the first let­ter of their name. “Sig­na­tures” may look like scrib­bles. The goal is to give chil­dren an oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence the pur­pose of writ­ing, not to per­fect their sig­na­tures. Avoid any remarks or oth­er reac­tions that com­pare chil­dren’s “sig­na­tures.”

Choosing Books for Children

Stock your lit­er­a­cy cen­ter with a col­lec­tion of high-qual­i­ty books. To broad­en children’s expo­sure to dif­fer­ent gen­res, include non­fic­tion and poet­ry books in addi­tion to fic­tion. Reg­u­lar­ly intro­duce new books, and rotate books to keep the children’s inter­est and atten­tion. Pro­vide books that cov­er the inter­ests, back­grounds, lan­guages, expe­ri­ences, and oth­er char­ac­ter­is­tics of the chil­dren in your program.

Look­ing to stock your lit­er­a­cy cen­ter with some new books? Check out sug­ges­tions from The Smith­son­ian and The New York Pub­lic Library.

Learn More!

Inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about ear­ly lit­er­a­cy? Check out our cours­es Many Ways to Learn for Tod­dlers and Preschool­ers and Mak­ing Learn­ing Fun. Look­ing for sug­ges­tions to improve your lit­er­a­cy cen­ter? Check out our course The Ear­ly Child­hood Envi­ron­ment: Learn­ing Cen­ters.

Look­ing for more fun activ­i­ties to try with the chil­dren in your care? Check out our blogs Cre­ative Art Activ­i­ties for Chil­dren and Cook­ing with Chil­dren: Overnight Oats.

Care Courses Contact

Please let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings and week­ends: We’re here to help!

One response to “Why is literacy important in preschool?”

  1. […] Inter­est­ed in learn­ing about fos­ter­ing lit­er­a­cy in preschool­ers? Check out our blog “Why is Lit­er­a­cy Impor­tant in Preschool?” […]

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