A Parent's Guide to Promoting Early Literacy

Helpful Terms

ALPHABETIC KNOWLEDGE - knowing the names and shapes of letters of the alphabet


ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE - the understanding that written letters represent sound. I.E. the word big has three sounds and three letters


BIG BOOKS - oversized books that allow for the sharing of print and illustrations with a group of children


BLENDING - putting together individual sounds to make spoken words


COMPREHENSION - the ability to understand and gain meaning from what has been read


DECODABLE BOOKS - books that are made up of words that contain only the letter-sound relationships that the children are learning, along with a few words that are taught as sight words


DECODE - the ability to recognize and read words by translating the letters into speech sounds to determine the word’s pronunciation and meaning


DEVELOPMENTAL SPELLING - the use of letter-sound relationship information to attempt to write words


EMERGENT LITERACY - the view that literacy learning begins at birth and is encouraged through participation with adults in meaningful reading an writing activities


ENVIRONMENTAL PRINT - print that is a part of everyday life, such as signs, billboards, labels, and business logos


EXPERIMENTAL WRITING - efforts by young children to experiment with writing by creating pretend and real letters and by organizing scribbles and marks on paper


EXPLICIT INSTRUCTION - direct, structured, systematic teaching of a skill-set


FLUENCY - the ability to read text accurately and quickly and with expression and comprehension


GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS - diagrams that visually represent the organization and relationships of ideas in a text


INVENTED SPELLING - see developmental spelling


IRREGULAR WORDS - frequently used words that don’t follow the letter-sound relationship rules that children are learning


LEVELED BOOKS - books that have been assigned a particular level intended to indicate how difficult the books is for children to read


LITERACY - includes all the activities involved in speaking, listening, reading, writing, and appreciating both spoken and written language


PHONEMES - the smallest parts of spoken language that combine to form words. I.E. the word hit is made up of three phonemes (/h/ /i/ /t/) and differs by one phoneme from the words pit, hip, and hot


PHONEMIC AWARENESS - the ability to hear and identify the individual sounds in spoken words


PHONICS - the relationship between the sounds of spoken words and the individual letters or groups of letters that represent those sounds in written words


PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS - the understanding that spoken language is made up of individual and separate sounds


PREDICTABLE BOOKS - books that have repeated words or sentences, rhymes, or other patterns


PREFIX - a word part such as re-, un-, or pre– that is added to the beginning of a root word to form a new word with a new meaning


PRETEND READING - children’s attempts to “read” a book before they have learned to read


PRINT AWARENESS - knowing about print and books and how they are used


ROOT WORD - a word or word part to which a prefix or suffix is added


SEGMENTATION - taking spoken words apart sound by sound


SIGHT WORDS - words that a reader recognizes without having to sound them out. Some sight words are “irregular,” or have letter-sound relationships that are uncommon. I.E. you, are, have, and said


SUFFIX - a word part such as –ness, –able, or –er that is added to the end of a root word to form a new word with a new meaning


SYLLABLE - a word part that contains a vowel or, in spoken language, a vowel sound (e-vent, news-pa-per, pret-ty)


VOCABULARY - the words we must know in order to communicate effectively. Oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or recognize in listening. Reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print.


WORD WALLS - word-study and vocabulary words that are posted on the classroom wall so all children can easily see them


WORD RECOGNITION - the ability to identify printed words and to translate them into their corresponding sounds quickly and accurately so as to figure out their meanings