The Evidence Portal

Progressing language development and pre-literacy competencies

Flexible activity

The activity of developing language and pre-literacy competencies seeks to encourage the development of early language and pre-literacy skills.

How can it be implemented?

This flexible activity provides an opportunity for children transitioning to school to develop their language skills as well as pre-literacy capacities such as letter names, phonological awareness, conventions of print and comprehension. This activity has also been implemented with young infants with coaches providing parents with developmentally appropriate learning material, such as a book or hand puppet, and demonstrating ways to interact with infants in ways that develop language skills (e.g., imitating infant sounds).

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with children in foster care transitioning to kindergarten and preschoolers transitioning to school.

What programs conduct this activity?

Kids in Transition to School (KITS): Early literacy activities include a letter of the day (letter naming and letter–sound knowledge), a poem of the week (phonological awareness, concepts about print, and language), and storybook and dramatic activities (understanding of narrative).

Smart Beginnings: This intervention includes providing parents with developmentally appropriate learning materials, such as a book or toy, to develop language. During regular home visits, the intervention coach briefly videorecords the parent and child interacting with the book or toy and then immediately reviews the video with the parent to identify and reinforce strengths in skill development. For example, at 6 months, the coach would talk to the parent about their child’s language development and milestones (e.g., making sounds) and tips for interactions in a way that develops language (e.g., imitating infant sounds), provide the parent with a developmentally appropriate toy (e.g., hand puppets), record the parent and infant interacting, review the video together, highlighting strengths, and help the parent plan for opportunities to develop the language skills of their infant at home.

What else should I consider?

Children transition to school with varying levels of language development and pre-literacy skills. For some teachers, this variability in ability and skills can be challenging. The development of these skills and capacities is also greatly influenced by the home environment, including the value parents place upon language development and literacy skill and their own learning-to-read experiences.

Further resources

  • Lunkenheimer, E. S., Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D. S., Connell, A. M., Gardner, F., Wilson, M. N. And Skuban, E. M. 2008.  Collateral benefits of the Family Check-Up on early childhood school readiness: indirect effects of parents’ positive behavior support. Dev Psychol, 44, 1737-52.
  • Roby, E., Miller, E. B., Shaw, D. S., Morris, P., Gill, A., Bogen, D. L., Rosas, J., Canfield, C. F., Hails, K. A., Wippick, H., Honoroff, J., Cates, C. B., Weisleder, A., Chadwick, K. A., Raak, C. D. and Mendelsohn, A. L. 2021.  Improving Parent-Child Interactions in Pediatric Health Care: A Two-Site Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, 147, 1-12.
  • Pears, K., Fisher, P., Kim, H., Bruce, J., Healey, C. And Yoerger, K. 2013. Immediate Effects of a School Readiness Intervention for Children in Foster Care. Early Education and Development, 24, 771-791.
  • Pears, K. C., Kim, H. K. And Fisher, P. A. 2012. Effects of a school readiness intervention for children in foster care on oppositional and aggressive behaviors in kindergarten. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 2361-2366
Last updated:

24 Feb 2023

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