What is Early Literacy: Unlocking the Power of Literacy

Written by Petena Ballis & Dana Gibb

Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist
B.Sc, B.Sp.Path, C.P.S.P

What is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to read, spell and write and is an important foundation for everyday activities such as learning, working and communicating with others.

Pre-school and school-age literacy

Literacy skills typically begin developing before children start school. We call these pre-literacy or early literacy skills.

These skills can include learning letters and their sounds, learning the alphabet, and understanding how books work, including how to hold them, turn the pages and follow the words.

When children start school, they begin to build on their reading and work on two main skills: decoding and comprehension (Gough & Tunmer, 1986).

Decoding is about recognising words by breaking them down and identifying their sounds (d-o-g makes dog).

Comprehension is about learning to understand the meaning behind what you are reading.

Along with reading, children will also work on their spelling and writing skills.

To spell words correctly, children need to listen for the sounds in a word and identify which letter or letter combinations match that sound.

When children begin to write, they will learn to put words together in a sentence.

As they get older, they will develop their writing skills to cohesively link these sentences together to enhance their overall writing style (e.g., narrative, persuasive, information report).

This forms an important part of late-primary school and high school curriculum.

How can Speech Pathologists help?

Children who experience difficulty with reading, writing and spelling may struggle to keep up with their school peers and classwork (Snow, 2016).

These children may benefit from seeing a speech pathologist who can assist with improving these important skills.

A speech pathologist can:

  • Assess the child’s language and literacy skills
  • Determine if targeted therapy is necessary to develop these skills
  • Provide interventions that target a child’s oral language, reading, writing or spelling skills
  • Work with the child’s family, preschool, or school on shared goals
  • Recommend strategies for ongoing support
  • Implement evidence-based literacy programs to assist in these fundamental skills

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s literacy skills, please do not hesitate to contact Box Hill Speech Pathology on 9899 5494 to book an appointment with one of our speech pathologists.



Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/074193258600700104
Snow , P. C. (2016). Elizabeth Usher Memorial Lecture: Language is literacy is language – Positioning speech-language pathology in education policy, practice, paradigms and polemics, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18:3, 216-228, DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2015.1112837
Victorian Government (2023). The Victorian Curriculum F–10. Available at: https://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/

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