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Lack of school readiness for children from disadvantaged backgrounds due to social, physical, or economic factors is related to inadequate language and literacy experiences in early childhood.
              -Susan Landry

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A Literacy-Rich Home Environment

Practices Related to Developing a Literacy-Rich Home Environment

Project ELIPSS identified practices which promote emergent literacy for preschool children in their home environment.

Practices Which Promote Emergent Literacy in the Home
  • Children's books, magazines, newspapers, and other reading materials are found in the home.
  • Children see adults reading for their own information and pleasure.
  • Children are read to on a daily basis.
  • Children are encouraged to ask questions and talk about the stories read to them.
  • Children have writing supplies readily available to them.
  • Examples: markers, pencils, crayons, playdough, paper, scissors, paste

  • Children see adults writing for real purposes, such as making a grocery list or writing a letter.
  • Adults and older children point out words in the environment, such as those on food containers and restaurant signs.
  • Adults and older children take the time to answer young children's questions about reading and writing.
  • Children see their names in print on their belongings and in the home.
  • Adults and older children talk with young children about objects and events taking place in and out of the home.

Ideas for Using Environmental Print

At an early age children begin to recognize words that appear in the environment. They may know road signs (STOP), stores (Kmart), or restaurants (McDonald's). They know the words when they see them in context (see the golden arches for McDonald's). Adults can take advantage of these opportunities to help children learn letters, words, and the purpose and meaning of printed language. Words that appear inside the home, such as words on food containers, can be a rich source of literacy materials.

Ideas for Using Environmental Print in the Home
  • Children can help put away groceries reading each label as they put it away.
  • Make a matching game or word book from words they recognize, such as Sesame Street, Kmart, Subway. The words can be cut out of ads and glued onto cards.
  • Children can help make a picture grocery list. A large sheet of paper can be put on the refrigerator. Each time an item is emptied and needs to be replaced, the child can place the label onto the paper. The paper can then be taken to the store. The child can match the picture list with labels in the store.

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Home Literacy Recommendations from the National Research Council

In their book, Starting Out Right, the National Research Council ( ) recommends encouraging literacy in young children through everyday activities. Families should take advantage of opportunities to promote literacy through daily activities.

Daily Activities Which Promote Literacy
  • Make a game of labeling. Verbally label objects and events for the child. For example, "where are your eyes?" helps children learn vocabulary as well as pronunciation.
  • Ask questions of children during outings to encourage them to think and use vocabulary. Allow children to control the conversation and help them with new words.
  • Connect content from books with the child's life. Talk about the connections. For example, with Just Grandma and Me, talk about what the child's grandmother would do or whether she has been to the beach.
  • Encourage children to read to an adult. Help them by prompting children to say something about the book. Children may also be encouraged to read to their pets or toys, such as dolls or stuffed animals.
  • Talk to children during bath time, meal time, and car rides to help their language development. These are opportune times to have meaningful conversations with children.

View Starting Out Right. Starting Out Right the top

Home Literacy Environment Assessment

Many literacy organizations have developed assessments which serve as guides for families as they design a literacy-rich environment at home.

Get Ready to Read is a checklist of items related to home literacy environment and activities published by The National Center for Learning Disabilities. The assessment can be printed as a pdf file.

Get Ready to Read.

Research on Home Literacy

The March 2004 issue of Educational Leadership contains an article summarizing recent research on family literacy. The article discusses the importance of home environment factors and early literacy experiences. A summary of the article can be found at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website.

View Recent Research on Family Literacy. March 2004 Vol. 6, #6, pp. 88-89
"What Research Says About Reading" Article by John H. Holloway

Start Early, Finish Strong is the U.S. Department of Education's publication based on literacy research. It includes information and strategies to help families promote literacy at home.

View Family Literacy Strategies. the top.

Other Resources

PBS Parents has information on Parent Book Clubs, home literacy strategies, recommended books, and links to other home literacy resources.

View PBS Parents.

National Center for Family Literacy contains downloadable files with information and research findings related to home literacy activities.

View National Center on Family Literacy.
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