Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Developmental Milestones

Birth to Six Months

  • Starts to develop a positive attitude towards reading if read to from birth.
  • Demonstrates enjoyment of patterned language and rhyme by making sounds, smiling, making eye contact, and moving arms and legs.

  • Develops greater recognition of the sounds of their language.

  • Becomes aware of books as unique objects.

  • Explores books with hands and mouth.

  • Treats words as part of the pictures in books.

  • By three months of age, begins to anticipate familiar stories, songs, and rhymes.


Seven to Twelve Months

  • Continues to develop positive feelings toward reading through shared reading experiences with adults.

  • Begins to mimic adult reading.

  • Begins to take a more active role in reading experiences.

  • Uses sounds, facial expressions, or gestures to indicate interest in, or disinterest in reading at particular times.

  • Recognizes pleasant or playful tone of voice used for reading.

  • May request that adults read by bringing them a book to read.

  • Can choose books to read based on preference and familiarity of the cover image.

  • Starts to turn the pages in books, although not always from front to back.

  • May show preference for certain pages in books.

  • Continues to follow pictures more closely than stories.

  • Can often take turns pointing to pictures in books or otherwise interacting with books.

  • Near one year of age, starts to understand that pictures in books can represent real objects and starts to label objects in pictures.

  • Gradually comes to understand more of what is read when books are read repeatedly but does not yet understand narrative storylines.

  • Increasingly anticipates words and gestures associated with familiar stories and songs.

  • Does not yet understand that the spoken language used by adults when reading is based on print and has no awareness of the meaning of a letter, word, or sentence.


Thirteen to Twenty-Four Months

  • Delights in repeated readings of favourite stories.

  • Learns that print gives information, entertains, and brings comfort by observing adults reading or being involved in reading experiences.

  • Takes turns with adults during reading times.

  • Begins to take control of reading experiences by pointing to pictures to focus adult attention, turning pages, and asking questions by pointing to a picture or saying a word while looking to the caregiver for confirmation.

  • Becomes able to label pictures in books and request “more” reading.

  • Begins to fill in missing words from familiar stories, rhymes, and songs.

  • Beginning awareness of rhymes in books and songs.

  • May identify the conflict of familiar stories in a general manner (“Boy sad. Ball gone.”).

  • Learns to identify the beginning and end of stories.

  • Interrupts adult reading to ask simple one- and two-word questions about the pictures.

  • Begins to develop an understanding of some of the parts of a book and how to handle books.

  • Will typically hold books with the proper orientation and turn pages in the correct direction.

  • Can sometimes identify which are words and which are pictures on a page when asked.

  • Believes that the print labels the pictures.

  • Begins to notice words in print.

  • May start questioning what different words on the page say.

  • May develop some sight words (words they will know immediately when seen in print, e.g. stop, no, own name).

  • May start to recognize some letters.

  • Nearing second birthday, may choose books to “read” independently, mimicking adult reading behaviour and reciting the language of familiar stories.

  • Nearing second birthday, attempts to supply the missing word from rhymes in familiar stories or songs, although pronunciation may not always be clearly identifiable.


Twenty-Five to Thirty-Six Months

  • Increasingly identifies self as reader.

  • Shows preference for certain stories and requests re-readings of favourite stories.

  • Enjoys both fiction and non-fiction books.

  • Recognizes favourite books by covers.

  • Discusses stories that are read.

  • Relates information from stories to other contexts.

  • Responds with missing words and phrases when reading familiar stories with adults.

  • Recognizes and comments on storylines, conflicts, and characters.

  • Retells stories in own words using pictures.

  • Invents new stories similar to those read.

  • “Reads” familiar stories from memory.

  • Develops sight words or automatic recognition of print words based on visual cues.

  • Understands how to handle books properly.

  • Understands something about the title, author, and beginning and ending of stories.

  • Imitates reading behaviours of adults and other children, such as posture and eye focus and eye movement patterns, and head movements.

  • Can recognize some environmental print (logos, labels, signs).

  • Begins to learn the underlying sound structure of language and starts to match it to the written letters of the alphabet.

  • Begins to separate pictures from print.

  • Begins to understand that print stands for words.

  • Continues to believe that words label pictures.

  • Begins to learn letter names.

  • Begins to make connections between known letters and words.

  • Shows interest in learning letter sounds but does not connect this to reading.


Thirty-Seven to Forty-Eight Months

  • Gains information from books read to him or her.

  • Connects stories to his or her life and surroundings.

  • Begins to understand, with assistance from adults, the distinction between real and pretend information from stories and other print material.

  • Responds emotionally to the characters and actions that take place in stories.

  • Makes predictions and anticipates events that will happen in stories.

  • Uses memory to read familiar stories.

  • Can tell simple stories in sequence.

  • Begins to want to read in a conventional (adult) way.

  • Imitates adult reading behaviours.

  • Demonstrates mastery of most book conventions.

  • Begins to track print with fingers while attempting to read.

  • May start to notice punctuation in written language.

  • Recognizes the different functions of letters and numbers but may not always be able to visually distinguish them.

  • Begins to attend to the beginning sound of words and to rhyming words.

  • Shows increasing interest in learning the names and sounds of letters.

  • Recognizes a few printed words by sight (own name, yes, no).

  • May use beginning knowledge of letter sounds to decode a few short words by 48 months.


Forty-Nine to Sixty Months

  • Can retell or “read” parts of familiar stories from memory.

  • Can follow a series of events in stories.

  • Has typically mastered book level concepts of print such as cover, title, author, and illustrator.

  • Can distinguish between print and pictures.

  • Holds books properly and tracks print with eyes and finger.

  • Gradually learns about different purposes for reading and different forms of print (e.g., menus, newspapers, etc.).

  • Continues to focus on learning to read in the conventional (adult) way.

  • May refuse to read because they “can’t read” like adults or older children do.

  • May view reading as decoding (sounding out) words.

  • Gradually makes a transition to a more print-focused approach to reading, instead of focusing mostly on the pictures.

  • Learning more about how spoken language is represented in print.

  • Developing a concept of how printed words are separated by spaces.

  • May start to recognize, but not completely understand, some punctuation marks.

  • Recognizes his or her own name and a few other printed words.

  • Continues to learn letter names and sounds.

  • Begins to look at the internal parts of words, rather than just the beginning and ending letters.

  • Shows awareness of rhyme and may produce rhyme.

  • Can separate words heard into syllables.

  • May use beginning knowledge of letter sounds to decode a few short words.