Ready, Set, Read! Montessori Methods for Encouraging Emergent Literacy

Children are naturally curious. They want to explore the world around them and try to understand as much as they can. And with your help, they can do just that through reading!

Today, we’re going to be talking about emergent literacy in children and the practical life activities you can do to encourage literary growth. These activities can help your child develop important reading skills that they can build on for the rest of their life. Plus, they can have a lot of fun while they’re doing it!


Decoding and Comprehension skills


Before we get working on your child’s vocabulary, let’s start with some ourselves. There are two primary skill sets you can help your child develop as they approach a reading age: Decoding and Comprehension. 

Decoding skills build on your child’s phonological awareness, or their ability to manipulate sounds with their mouth to create language. Decoding helps kids recognize the letters of the alphabet, the sounds they make, and the words that those letters form. Comprehension skills, meanwhile, include vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and sentence structure. 

Comprehension and decoding are directly related, so lot of the activities we recommend can potentially give your child the structure they need to develop both skills!


Here’s a few ideas:




Children love being silly and playing with language, and rhyming is an excellent way to turn reading into a game. Reading short rhyming stories or books of rhyming poetry can help your child comprehend this special connection between certain words. It may prompt them to try making up rhymes themselves! Even nonsense words can be useful for developing their decoding skills, since they can still remember those rhyming sounds and recognize them in the future.


Labeling the names of objects in your home


Combine vocab building and hide-and-seek with this fun practical life activity! Using a label-maker or strips of laminated paper, label some of the objects in your home at your child’s eye-height. Then, you can prompt them to play games like, “Find something that starts with the letter S!” This can help them realize that reading is fun as well as helpful. You could focus on the objects that your child regularly interacts with to make it easier for them to find, like their toy box, their seat at the dinner table, the refrigerator, or the front door.




One of the most fun and engaging ways your child can develop these literacy skills is to encourage them to write themselves. Learning to create letters can help them recognize those letters when they’re reading. Typically, children develop their letter recreation skills in steps. You can take the opportunity to encourage these steps if you see your child participating in them!

  • Scribbling – Random marks and scribbles on the page can indicate their desire to create something. You can help your child through this process by structuring their scribbling time or patiently prompting them to recreate specific letters.
  • Emerging writing – Your child may begin to make up their own letter and letter-like forms. This is the stage where they may incorporate conventional letters into their writing.
  • Transitional writing – Children may write the first letter of a word to represent it, as they remember the sound that the word starts with. They may eventually include the last letter as well. Gradually, your child can add more letters and develop their conventional writing skills.
  • Conventional writing – Finally, your child gains the ability to put letters together to form entire words, and with this comes a firmer understanding of phonological awareness and eventually an understanding of sentence structure.


Interactive reading


Of course, one of the best ways your child can improve their reading skills… is to read! 

If you want to encourage your child to take an interest in reading, try reading in front of them. It could help them understand that reading isn’t just “kid stuff,” and they might even get excited and ask if they can try it. 

There are lots of ways you can involve your child in reading time. Hold conversations with your child about the story you’re reading together and ask them what they think will happen next. This can help them comprehend story sequence.

Autonomy is a big part of early reading, and it can shape their relationship with reading for years to come. Let your child hold the book and turn the pages. If they want to go back a page or look at a picture, then they might feel a connection with the writing or the picture. Ask them what they see and why they like it. You could even prompt them to relate their experiences with the events of the story. 

Remember, moments of sharing are fleeting, but the story is always there. Drawing conclusions from the text is an important literacy skill. It’s the basis for critical reading, and your child could really benefit from your support!

We know that you want to give your little one every opportunity you can to grow and thrive. That’s why we offer this monthly blog with practical life tips and activity ideas. Consider following us on our social media for blog updates, as well as even more Montessori education!