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Signs of Early literacy Difficulties 

Children develop at different rates. Some children with early literacy difficulties will catch up to their peers. But some children who make slow early progress often need extra help. If they struggle early on, they can experience delays in literacy development over the long term.


There are some early signs that your child might be having trouble with early literacy skills. These signs involve both oral language (vocabulary and listening skills) and knowledge of word structure (knowing letters, rhyming, sounding out and blending sounds in simple words).


Literacy difficulties at 3-4 years 

Seek help or advice if most of the time your child has trouble with three or more of the following activities.



Your child has trouble:


  • telling you what action is going on in a picture book – for example, running, barking, eating


  • using all of the necessary words to make a complete sentence – for example, ‘I going zoo’ rather than ‘I’m going to the zoo’


  • listening to an adult read to her on a regular basis


  • remembering a previously read book when shown its cover


  • showing that she can tell the difference between the front and back of the book, and that she can hold it the right way up


  • naming simple objects represented in books


  • concentrating on and responding to print, such as the letters in names, signs and so on


  • scribbling to make shapes that look like letters


  • stringing similar-sounding words together – for example, ‘cat, bat, hat’


  • repeating at least parts of nursery rhymes.


Literacy difficulties at five years 

Seek help or advice if most of the time your child can’t do the things listed above, and struggles with three or more of the following.



In spoken language, your child has trouble:


  • understanding everyday spoken directions


  • incorporating new words when he speaks, and noticeably using longer sentences (often more than five words)


  • recognising the beginning of words and sounds that rhyme, and producing examples


  • breaking simple words into their parts (syllables or single sounds), and putting sounds together to make words


  • using the proper endings of words – for example, ‘He played football with me’ rather than ‘He play football with me’


  • using comparison words, such as ‘heavier’, ‘stronger’ or ‘shorter’. For example, if you said, ‘A car is big, but a bus is ______?’, your child should reply, ‘Bigger’.


In reading, your child has trouble:


  • showing interest in books and reading


  • trying to read – for example, your child might say, ‘This word says cat. See, I can read!’


  • following the sequence of events in stories


  • relating what happens in books to her own life events


  • listening attentively when books are read aloud and doesn’t get meaning and pleasure from this activity.



In understanding print concepts, your child has trouble:


  • knowing that words in print are different from pictures, and are there to be read


  • observing and commenting on print in different settings, such as on TV, food packets, tablets and so on


  • appreciating the different purposes of print – for example, locations, prices, assembly instructions


  • knowing that each letter in the alphabet has a name and a sound


  • naming at least eight letters


  • understanding that writing is a tool for communication


  • scribbling his name, messages and so on, regardless of whether you can read what he scribbles.

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