How does the magic happen? Literacy development in young children.

I have always been amazed at the way children begin to read. As an educator and as a parent I watched in wonder as children’s language and literacy skills grew from noises and gurgles into fully fledged spoken, written, heard and read language. A very complex process.

Even with the COVID imposed delay our children from early learning programs to upper primary school  delighted in the celebration of Book Week in October this term (CBCA Book Week 2020 Theme: Curious Creatures, Wild Minds). This major literacy event brings language alive for children, teachers, educators and parents. I am sure there were lots of curious creatures and wild minds all engaged in literacy.

Literacy can be defined as the ability to listen, speak, view, read and write, critically think and use language.

The development of children’s literacy evolves in the everyday at home, in our communities with our families and friends and in the environment. It is a process that begins long before birth when your developing baby hears your voice, and the voices of others close to you, your partner, other children, family and their life, music, rumbles from your body, the sounds of the environment.

Along the way in this magical process of literacy development children……..

  • hear……listening, one of the first senses activated in utero and the last to go ……..
  • make sense of sounds……decoding, recognising patterns, making meaning
  • make sounds……making understanding, initiating sound, (baby babbling)
  • copy sounds……imitating, responding
  • form spoken words……speaking sounds
  • make sentences……putting 1,2,3, + words together
  • converse……share and respond with you and carers
  • recognise symbols…… identify and understand the meaning of  symbols
  • make marks……using tools, pens crayons and attribute meaning to these   
  • form letters
  • write……words, sentences and stories …..
  • read……increasingly complex texts, both visual and digital 

Some ways to help include …..

…From baby’s early days share storytelling and reading books with your child (sliding your finger under the words as you read)

…singing, with action, movement and rhythm

…reading and reciting nonsense rhymes, (the author Roald Dahl is great for older primary aged

    readers), poems, traditional stories and songs.

…pointing out words and symbols as you go about every day activities.

…by acting out, being dramatic and funny, using different tones of voice to convey meaning.

…make paper and pens available at home

…model reading and writing in everyday life, digitally and visually


Children who hear more words engage in more meaningful conversation.

Spark the wonder. Let the magic happen.


Mary Digges *

MDR Education

Early Childhood Consultant for Angsana Education. 

* Mary Digges is an early childhood teacher, lecturer, trainer, assessor and consultant in education and has long promoted bilingual and multilingual education. Mary has worked in Australia, Singapore and China.



You may be interested in further reading from these references.

Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority -ACARA


Australian parenting website Raising Children


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