Did you know even babies and toddlers are in the process of becoming readers and writ- ers? Through the support of
those around them, they will progress from
emergent understandings and skills to conventional reading and writing.
If you’ve ever seen a baby help turn pages
of a favorite book or clap hands in rhythm
to a song, you’ve witnessed the early stages
of emergent literacy. Children who are read
to regularly begin early on to enjoy the
sound of a familiar story, take in accompanying illustrations and engage however
they can—to join in the fun.
What Is Emergent Writing?
Emergent writing is actually part of the
broader term, emergent literacy, which is
a child’s knowledge of reading and writing
skills before they actually learn to read and
A New Zealand researcher named Marie Clay introduced this concept in 1966
to describe the path children take as they
learn to master sounds and letters and
grasp meaning when they’re formed into
There are important components to
emergent literacy—the parts that come
together over a period of time to build the
skills and understandings necessary to read
and write. They are:
Children exposed to books learn to enjoy
reading times, pretending to write, and activities such as going to the library. Enthusiastic parents can foster this motivation.
Children learn that words name things
from the names of family members to the
words for everything in their surroundings.
The richer the child’s vocabulary, the sooner
they progress in reading and writing skills.
Children gain understanding of parts of a
book and how a book works. For example,
they learn that each book has a cover, a
title and words inside. Eventually print
awareness grows to the recognition of letters and spaces and that strings of letters
Children love stories, both those they hear
and those they tell themselves. The more
they engage in story language, the sooner
they want to read and write themselves.
Most children learn the alphabet at an
early age. From that foundation, they go
on to recognize both capital and lowercase
By Jan Pierce
Day by day, they’re discovering how writing works.