Families and primary caregivers play an important role in developing essential emergent literacy skills of children from birth so that they are ready for kindergarten and have a strong foundation for future academic success. This article explores factors that influence the emergent literacy development process and offers strategies to boost school readiness levels and literacy rates among children.

Key Take Away Points

  • When children enter kindergarten possessing the foundational knowledge and skills for learning how to read, they are more likely to perform well academically, stay in school, and graduate on time.
  • Ensuring every child is ready for school requires a holistic view of a child’s early environment and experiences.
  • Since a significant amount of the brain’s development occurs before the child enters formal education, the child’s early experiences have a substantial impact on their school readiness.
  • Having a literacy-rich home environment is an important factor in developing a child’s emergent literacy skills.
  • Caregiver education levels, attitudes and beliefs are important factors contributing to school readiness and reading achievement levels of their child.
  • Early literacy programs should match the values of caregivers and families and this can be achieved by using the family or community’s primary language, recruiting ethnically similar staff, partnering with organizations that have an existing relationship within the community and seeking insights from members of the community on adjusting program materials.
  • Policies that enable families to access adequate healthcare, nutrition, stable housing, quality and affordable childcare, parent education programs, and home resources to support their young children—prenatal to age three—are important in contributing to school-readiness levels.
  • Far too little is invested in early education, yet it can yield high levels of return on investment.
  • Emergent literacy is multi-faceted and critically important to placing children on a path to academic achievement and realizing their fullest potential. The role primary caregivers play in unlocking this potential cannot be underscored.

Author Biography

Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D., serves as the president of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. She has more than 20 years of experience in the field of K-12 education, holding leadership positions at the state, regional and district levels focused on implementing large-scale education reform initiatives. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2013, Dr. Finck served four years on the executive leadership team of the Houston Independent School District, the seventh largest district in the nation. Dr. Finck began her career as a middle school teacher in Kentucky. She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in education administration from The Ohio State University in 2001. Allison Shea, BA, is a Master of Public Service and Administration May 2016 candidate at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is studying public policy analysis with a concentration in education policy.