Early Learning Foundational Skills: Literacy

Literacy Overview

Woman reading to two children
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Literacy includes the skills related to reading, writing, listening and speaking. These skills are the key to understanding and communicating in the world through print and other forms of media, such as videos and audio recordings. Parents and caregivers help children build a strong literacy foundation by reading together, talking and making literacy connections with real world experiences.

The literacy focus areas that you will find in this section are (Click on each area for specific information and resources.):

  • Getting Ready to Read (ages 3 to 8 years) which is when children learn what print is and how books work.
  • Learning to Read (ages 3 to 9 years) which is when children build more understanding of how letters form words and how to read words.
  • Building a Strong Reader (ages 3 to 9 years) which is when children move from listening to and discussing stories to reading on their own.
  • Using and Writing Words (ages 3 to 9 years) which is when understanding of words and meanings is expanded for children.
  • Building Sentences (ages 3 to 9 years) which is when experiences in listening, speaking, reading and writing help children develop communication skills using appropriate grammar and structure.
  • Preparing and Composing Writing (ages 3 to 9 years) which is when children express ideas and communicate through print as they compose written sentences, stories, and other types of writing.

Click on each section to find literacy skills and behaviors you might see your child exhibit and ideas that may help your child become a stronger reader and writer. All children develop at different rates so there is no exact spot that will define the learning of your child. Your interactions and support will help your child grow and improve no matter where they are along the path to becoming literate.

The foundational skills for literacy were developed in relation to the Maine Learning Results for English Language Arts. Therefore, you will note that the unique sounds and structures of English are referenced throughout. However, the Maine Department of Education celebrates the many languages spoken by families across the state. We also recognize the great body of research that demonstrates the link between skills in a child’s primary/home language and the successful development of skills in English. We encourage families to support their children’s learning through the language(s) spoken at home. Many of the skills described are highly transferrable, and children benefit enormously from practicing these skills across languages.

For more information and resources you may want to contact your child’s school, your local library or you may want to look at these Family Guides from Student Achievement Partners and Seek Common Ground.


Media:  A particular form or system of communication (such as newspapers, radio, or television).

Grammar:  The set of rules that explain how words are used in a language.

Structure:  The way that spoken and written words are arranged and organized.

Literate:  The ability to read and write.

Additional Resources

To access online texts to read to or with your child, check out these sites:

International Children’s Digital Library

Unite for Literacy

Free Children’s Stories