Literacy Knowledge & Skills Framework icon

This document was developed before the release of the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework 2015 (HSELOF) [PDF, 9.2MB]. While information in this document is still valuable, the Office of Head Start (OHS) is in the process of updating materials to reflect the HSELOF 2015 to ensure they address the current needs of programs and reflect best practices and research. At this time, Getting Started [PDF, 703KB] provides initial guidance to programs in how to use the HSELOF.

Literacy Knowledge & Skills refers to the knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for reading and writing, such as understanding basic concepts about books or other printed materials, the alphabet, and letter-sound relationships. Early literacy is the foundation for reading and writing in all academic endeavors in school. It is considered one of the most important areas for young children's development and learning. Early literacy learning provides children with an opportunity to explore the world through books, storytelling, and other reading and writing activities. It is a mechanism for learning about topics they enjoy and acquiring content knowledge and concepts that support progress in other domains. It is critical for supporting a range of positive outcomes, including success in school and other environments. In the domain of Literacy Knowledge & Skills, programs need to ensure that children who are dual language learners can demonstrate their abilities, skills, and knowledge in any language, including their home language.

Strategies to Enhance Book Appreciation

  • Read one-on-one to children on laps or snuggled close by in small groups of three to six where children can see and touch the book and develop positive feelings about reading.
  • Read to children in small groups to best support children's active participation, vocabulary development, and comprehension.
  • Actively engage children in reading time — asking questions about the book before reading it (such as where is the cover or title), posing questions that call on them to predict what will happen, noticing cause-effect relationships, chanting with rhyme and patterns.
  • Assist children in seeking information in books or using books as resources to help solve problems ("What does the space shuttle really look like so we can build it with blocks?").
  • Teach children how to properly care for and handle books, protect the spine, turn pages slowly so they do not tear, and when necessary participate in repairing books as needed. Model respect and careful handling of books.
  • Engage children in retelling stories or acting them out in dramatic play. With the children's help, write down the stories they make up as they play and retell them later.
  • *Make sure that books in the classroom reflect children's culture, home language, and identity.
  • Talk with children about their favorite books and authors. Encourage children to write or email them. Use the Internet to get more information about authors' lives and work.
  • Integrate books across the curriculum, including literature related to the creative arts and math.
  • Support parents in telling stories, reading to children, and talking about books at home.
  • Provide parents with the opportunity to get library cards. Encourage them to take their child to the library to check out books and to attend "story hours."
  • Create story boxes for the dramatic play area filled with appropriate props to facilitate children acting out the story.
  • Guide the children in a story dramatization where all the children take on the role of the main character and experience the same sequence of events (see Creative Arts).
  • Put books in various areas of the classroom, such as in the block and puzzle areas.
  • Provide ways for children to take books home or to receive books to keep.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Domain Element: Book Appreciation

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Steps to Success Facilitator Guide Unit 1 Module 2: Head Start Child Outcomes for Preschool: Book Knowledge and Appreciation and Print Awareness and Concepts (TVI) Guide, Video, Training Mentor-coaches and teaching teams can review instructional strategies to advance young children's interest in books.
Steps to Success: Protégé Journal [PDF, 703.79KB] Tool Teachers can document their responses to reflection questions about their use of literacy strategies with young children.
Curriculum, Assessment and the Head Start Framework: An Alignment Review Tool [PDF, 34.54KB] Tool Program directors and education managers can use this tool to determine how well their curriculum and assessment systems align.
Teaching about Books Article Teaching teams and parents can review routine features of books.
Using Children's Books with Dads Article Fathers can explore ways to use books to connect with children.
Rosa and Julio in the Library [PDF, 34.54KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can review notes focused on assessing children's progress in early literacy skills.
Sharing Stories [PDF, 89.54KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can review documentation focused on children's use of books. They can explore follow-up learning experiences to extend children's learning.
Reading Aloud to Children Article Teaching teams can review the importance of reading aloud to young children.
*Dialogic Reading Strategies that Support Dual Language Learners and their Families

*Professional Development Training *A professional development module for group or independent learning about using dialogic reading strategies with children who are dual language learners.
*Using Splat the Cat to Promote Dialogic Reading Strategies

Article *Step-by-step guide to a dialogic reading activity using the book, Splat the Cat.
*Using Tough Boris to Promote Dialogic Reading: A Powerful Way to Encourage Language Development in One or More Languages 

Article *Step-by-step guide to a dialogic reading activity using the book, Tough Boris.
*Using Mariposa, Mariposa (Butterfly, Butterfly) to Promote Dialogic Reading

Article *Step-by-step guide to a dialogic reading activity using this book that's available in both English and Spanish.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Strategies to Promote Phonological Awareness

  • Be intentional and plan experiences that focus children's attention on the sounds in words and speech. These activities need to be fun and playful to ensure children's participation, motivation, and interest.
  • Engage children in daily experiences that promote phonological awareness. These include but are not limited to: playing rhyming games, singing songs, and chanting nursery rhymes; learning finger-plays; or reading and memorizing poems.
  • Put phonological awareness games, activities, and rhyming books in learning centers around the room. Make phonological awareness part of the everyday classroom environment.
  • Use phonological awareness activities during transitions and routines. For example, sing the Name Game or say, "Everyone whose name starts with the sound of 'ssss,' get your coat," being sure to emphasize the sound, not the letter name.
  • *Whenever possible, phonological awareness should be taught to English language learners in their primary language as well as English. This foundation facilitates the transfer of reading and writing skills to learning a second language. For example, include rhyming and alliteration patterns in children's primary languages. Enlist parents to help you.
  • Engage children in a variety of listening activities including listening to stories on tape or CD, taking "listening walks" in the building or outdoors, or matching the actual sounds of objects to their pictures.
  • Emphasize rhyming activities by:
    • letting children fill in a rhyme when reading, reciting poetry, or chanting;
    • making up nonsense rhymes with their names and other words;
    • reading books with strong rhyming patterns such as Dr. Seuss;
    • *incorporating rhymes from the children's home languages and cultures.
  • Use alliteration activities such as:
    • singing songs like Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and substitute the first sounds of words: Bed, Boulders, Bees, and Boes;
    • making a class book where each child's picture is matched with a picture that begins with the same sound as his or her first name.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Domain Element: Phonological Awareness

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Steps to Success Facilitator Guide Unit 4 Module 2: Phonological Awareness (TVI) Video Mentor-coaches and teaching teams can review the definition and requirements of this important early literacy skill.
Using Child Assessment Information to Guide Instruction [PDF, 710.14KB] Tool Mentor-coaches can use the self-assessment to help identify areas of phonological awareness where they need to review and extend their skills.
Steps to Success Mentor Coach Guide Unit 4, Module 2: Helping Staff Use Child and Classroom Information for Planning [PDF, 926.73KB] Guide Mentor-coaches can help staff use child and classroom information for planning.
Teaching about the Sounds of Spoken Language Article-Excerpt Teaching teams and caregivers can review strategies to promote children's development of phonological awareness.
*[Video Transcript] Ready for Success Webcast -- Segment II: What Does It Look Like? (Literacy Development) [PDF, 83.23KB] Transcript *Includes strategies relevant to working with children who are dual language learners.
Some Helpful Terms to Know Article-Excerpt Teaching teams can review a glossary of terms and research on early reading.
Curriculum, Assessment and the Head Start Framework: An Alignment Review Tool [PDF, 703.79KB] Tool Management staff can determine how well their curriculum and assessment systems align.
Morning Message [PDF, 89.30KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can review documentation of children's behaviors related to progress in phonological awareness.
*Assessing Young Dual Language Learners – What You Need to Know and Why [PDF, 176.16KB] PowerPoint *Management staff and teaching teams can review the differences in literacy development of bilingual and monolingual children.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Strategies to Promote Alphabet Knowledge

  • Display the alphabet in the classroom at children's eye level. Place letters where children see them, touch and manipulate them (for instance, magnetic or sandpaper letters), and use them where they work and play.
  • Create a sign-in sheet for children, grouping names by initial letters in first name. At first, children may just make a scribble or a mark, but gradually they will begin to write the letters in their names. Grouping the names by initial letter reinforces the concept of the alphabet.
  • Use letter name knowledge during transitions. "Everyone whose name starts with B, wash your hands."
  • With small groups of children, play games like Lotto or Concentration that require them to look closely at letters and begin to say letter names.
  • Provide the writing center with alphabet samples readily available for children to copy if they choose to or refer to as they try to write their names or other messages.
  • Expose children to upper and lower case letters as well as different fonts of the same letter. Children need to learn the "essence" of the letter symbol rather than only one representation of it. Use puzzles with matching pieces for upper and lower case letters.
  • Support children's attempts at writing letters, realizing that forming upper case letters is easier at first.
  • Use reading aloud and shared reading to reinforce letter-name knowledge, inviting children to say what letter a new word starts with or having them find the word that starts with S.

Domain Element: Alphabet Knowledge

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Steps to Success Facilitator Guide Unit 2, Module 2: Supporting Alphabet Knowledge (TVI) Video Mentor-coaches and teaching teams can see examples of ways to promote alphabet knowledge via sensory recognition or by integrating words and letters from a child's home language.
Steps to Success Module 1: Getting Ready for Observation and Analysis [PDF, 598.72KB] Tool Mentor-coaches can use this self-assessment to determine areas promoting alphabet learning in which they need to increase their knowledge.
Ms. Gwendolyn and the Big Book [PDF, 44.22KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can review documentation of children's progress in letter recognition.
What's in a Name? [PDF, 37.32KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams review examples of how children write their names to help determine children's progress in alphabet recognition.
Teaching about Letters Article-Excerpt Teaching teams can review how to document a sequence of emerging skills important to alphabet recognition.

Strategies to Promote Print Concepts & Conventions

  • Maximize the use of meaningful print around the room, such as menus, order pads, and pads for bills in the "restaurant"; charts, prescription pads, and cards for the "doctor's office" or "hospital"; builder's plans, construction and street signs, and books for the block area; magazines, shopping lists, and stationery in the "house"; cookbooks and recipe cards for the "kitchen"; directions, timetables, and maps in the "bus station," "train station," or "car."
  • Engage children in making their own signs or labels using pictures, letter-like symbols, letters, and their own "kid-writing."
  • Read aloud to small or large groups of children using Big Books to allow for children to see print and pictures. These often come with smaller versions for children to hold in their hands.
  • Track print while reading to children from Big Books or language experience charts, pointing to specific words and demonstrating left to right, right/left sweep, and top to bottom motion of print.
  • Help the child take the next step beyond what he is currently capable of doing. In other words, provide scaffolding. For example, if a child has been writing his name with only a J for several weeks, the teacher may ask "What comes after J, Jamal?" and show him the next letter if he doesn't know it. Or say "point to the words as I read them" to reinforce a child's knowledge of left-to-right motion.
  • Engage children in writing or exploring with many different kinds of print for different purposes, such as signs, lists, stories, letters, or directions.
  • Use high quality, developmentally appropriate computer software to introduce and reinforce concepts of print.
  • Support parents in print-related activities at home.
  • To help children recognize a word as a unit of print, point to individual words when reading to children, especially in Big Books or on language experience charts.
  • Talk with children to assess their understanding of the concept of "word." Ask them which is the first word in a sentence or which word starts like their name.
  • Provide lots of opportunities for children to write. As they write their own messages for their purposes, they will focus on the individual words they want to use.
  • Scaffold children's writing by drawing lines for the number of words they want to write. ("You want to write, I love you. OK, that's three words, __ _____ _____.").
  • *Expose children to varying structures of print that reflect the diverse languages within the classroom.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Domain Element: Print Concepts & Conventions

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
Steps to Success Facilitator Guide Unit 1 Module 2: Head Start Child Outcomes for Preschool: Book Knowledge and Appreciation and Print Awareness and Concepts (TVI) Video Mentor-coaches and teaching teams can review instructional strategies that promote children's understanding letters.
Steps to Success Mentor-Coach Manual, Unit 1: Building Relationships to Promote Child Literacy Outcomes [PDF, 1.02MB] Guide (pg. 48-51) Mentor-coaches can review strategies that teaching teams can use to support children's understanding of print and written conventions of the English language.
Teaching about Print Article-Excerpt Teaching teams and caregivers can review important elements of printed words and how to help children make meaning from print-based experiences.
Rosa and Julio at the Library [PDF, 34.54KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can observe the developing skills of two children as they explore books and demonstrate their understandings of print concepts.

Strategies to Support Early Writing

  • Encourage children to record their thoughts in pictures or writing in their personal journals.
  • Ask children to sign-in each morning. The most meaningful word to any young child is his or her name. They are naturally motivated to see their name in print and spell their name when they are ready.
  • Display the alphabet at eye level and functional print, such as children's names, next to the classroom jobs for the week. Children can begin to recognize the letters in their own names and those of their friends, as well as other important words.
  • Ask children to include print in their drawings like the authors in storybooks.
  • Display their writing attempts as proudly as you do their pictures. Keep in mind children learn about print by using it. They need encouragement: "You wrote me such an interesting note!"
  • Watch their scribbles change to letter-like symbols and eventually recognizable forms of print as they progress through predictable developmental stages reflecting their knowledge about writing as well as their developing fine motor skills.
  • Provide opportunities to write daily and make writing materials available in each activity or interest area in the classroom. Have a clipboard with pens and pencils attached in many different areas in the classroom for both children and adults to use. In the block area, provide markers and paper for children to make signs to label constructions, create street signs, and the like.
  • Enrich outdoor play by including sidewalk painting with water, writing with sidewalk chalk, and making a mural or sign to hang on the fence.
  • Take dictations from children — their own stories or messages or large language experience charts— and let children take turns pointing to words as they read. They gain in many ways from seeing you write out their own words and reading the sentences back to them.
  • Give children opportunities to demonstrate what they know about types of text and what they have learned in a given area by either dictating or "kid-writing" letters, lists, signs, and other kinds of writing.
  • *Support early writing experiences for English language learners in their home language whenever possible.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

Domain Element: Early Writing

Title of Resource Type of Resource Notes
What's in a Name? [PDF, 37.32KB] Guided Practice Teaching teams can look at examples of early writing to determine how children are making progress.
*Head Start: An Avenue to Revitalize a Language Article *Program staff can learn how including the Cherokee syllabary at the writing center supports children's native language acquisition.

* Identifies content and references that include children who are dual language learners.

 

References for Evidence-Based Practice for the Literacy Knowledge & Skills Domain of the 2010 Early Learning Framework

The body of research that focuses on early education intervention as a key contributor to children's school readiness and successful achievement has grown significantly since the creation of Head Start in 1965. In order to highlight the significance of this research across the outcome domains of the Early Learning Framework, we include a variety of references that describe various levels of evidence in the research base. Specifically we include levels of evidence that support the scientific believability of approaches, strategies, instructional practices, and outcomes. These levels of evidence include results of large scale research studies, documentation of evidence-informed practices, and/or replicable practices that effect children's progress toward outcomes, or may hold merit for future research.

Literacy Knowledge & Skills

Bennett-Armistead, V.S., Duke, N.K. & Moses, A. (2006). Literacy and the youngest learner: Best practices for educators of children from birth to 5. New York: Scholastic.

Collins, M.C. (2010). ELL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(1), 84–97.

Collins, M.C. (2005). ESL preschoolers' English vocabulary acquisition from storybook reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 40(4), 406–8.

Gaffney, J.S., Ostrosky, M.M. & Hemmeter, M.L. (2008). Books as natural support for young children's literacy learning. Young Children, 63(4), 87–93.

Gersten, R., & Geva, E. (2003). Teaching reading to early language learners. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 44–49.

Gillanders, C. & Castro, D. (2011). Storybook reading for young dual language learners. Young Children, 66 (1), 91-95.

Howes, C. & Wishard, A. (2004). Linking shared meaning to emergent literacy. Zero to Three, 25(1), 10 14.

Lugo-Neris, M., Wood Jackson, C. & Goldstein, H. (2010). Facilitating vocabulary acquisition of young English language learners. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 41(3), 314–27.

Molfese, V. & Westberg, L. (2008). Impact of preschool and kindergarten programs on young children's early literacy skills.  In National Early Literacy Panel (Eds.), Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel (189-200). Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Parlakian, R. (2004). Early literacy and very young children, Zero to Three, 25(1), 37-44.

Roskos, K.A., Christie, J.F. & Richgels, D.J. (2003). The essentials of early literacy instruction. Young Children, 58(2), 52–60.

Book Appreciation

Duke, N.K. (2003). Reading to learn from the very beginning: Information books in early childhood. Young Children, 58(2), 14–20.

Koralek, D. (2003, March). Reading aloud with children of all ages. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web.

Lonigan, C. J., Shanahan, T. & Cunningham, A., with the National Early Literacy Panel (2008). Impact of Shared Reading Interventions on Young Children's Early Literacy Skills. In Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel (55-106). Louisville, KY: National Center for Family Literacy.

Phonological Awareness

Ehri, L.C., Nunes, S.R., Willows, D.M., Schuster, B.V., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z. & Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel's meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(3), 250–87.

Ehri, L.C., & Roberts, T. (2006). The roots of learning to read and write: Acquisition of letters and phonemic awareness. In Dickinson, D.K. & Neuman, S.B. (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research, Vol. 2, 113–31. New York: Guilford.

Fischel, J. & Landry, S. (2008). Impact of language-enhancement interventions on young children's literacy skills. In Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel (211-231). Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Lonigan, C.J., Burgess, S.R.  & Anthony, J.L. (2000). Development of emergent literacy and early reading skills in preschool children: Evidence from a latent-variable longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 36(5), 596–613.

Yopp, H.K. & Yopp, R.H. (2009, January) Phonological awareness is child's play! Young Children, 64 (1).

Alphabet Knowledge

Bradley, B.A. & Jones, J. (2007, February). Sharing alphabet books in early childhood classrooms. The Reading Teacher, 60(5), 452–463.

Hill-Clarke, K.Y., & Robinson, N.R. (2004). It's as easy as A-B-C and do-re-mi: Music, rhythm, and rhyme enhance children's literacy skills. Young Children, 59(5), 91–95.

Lonigan, C.J., Schatschneider, C. & Westberg, L. (2008). Impact of code-focused interventions on young children's literacy skills. In Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel (107-152). Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy.

Print Concepts & Conventions

Justice, L.M. & Pence, K.L. (2005). Building Print Knowledge: Supporting Early Print Discoveries. In Scaffolding With Storybooks: A Guide for Enhancing Young Children's Language and Literacy Achievement (13-25). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Neuman, S.B., Copple, C. & Bredekamp, S. (2000). Learning to read and write: Developmentally
appropriate practices for young children. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Zucker, T.A., Ward, A.E., & Justice, L.M. (2009, September). Print Referencing During Read-Alouds: A Technique for Increasing Emergent Readers' Print Knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 63(1), 62–72.

Early Writing

Love, A., Burns, M.S & Buell, M.J. (2007). Writing: Empowering literacy. Young Children, 62(1), 12–19.

Ranweiler, L.P. (2004). Preschool readers and writers: Early literacy strategies for teachers. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Schickedanz, J.A., & Casbergue, R.M. (2004). Writing in preschool: Learning to orchestrate meaning and marks. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Last Reviewed: June 2015

Last Updated: June 19, 2015