Ideas to build early literacy skills at home

As a recently retired Reading Specialist and trained Reading Recovery teacher, it has been my mission to contribute to the lives of young children by helping them learn to read and write.

Setting them up to become proficient readers involves teaching them how to focus in order to process the print as it is laid out on a page.

The following early literacy activities can be used by parents, older siblings, grandparents, babysitters and friends or relatives.

Early Learning Questions

Materials needed: pointers, rulers, chopsticks, pocket flashlights, or straws, (my granddaughter liked using a magic wand for this activity), favorite books, magazines, signs, labels on food cans or cereal boxes, etc.

Directions: Say “point to” ...

  • A letter you know
  • A word you know
  • The letter with which your first (last) name begins
  • A letter in your name
  • Your favorite letter
  • The letter with which your friend’s name begins
  • The letter ______
  • The letter with the sound ______
  • The letter before ______
  • The letter after ______
  • The letter between ______ and______
  • A lowercase letter______
  • An uppercase letter______
  • A small word
  • A medium-sized word
  • A large word
  • A word with one (two, three, etc.) letter(s)
  • A word that begins with ______
  • A word that ends with ______
  • A word with one, (two, three, etc.) syllable(s)
  • The word ______
  • A word that means about the same as ______
  • A word that is the opposite of______
  • A word that rhymes with______
  • A compound word
  • A color word
  • An action word
  • The name of a person, place, or thing
  • A word with the ending (ly, ed, etc.)
  • The first word on the page we are going to read
  • The last word on the page we are going to read


Make labels, using 3 x 5 index cards or sticky notes to label items in your home such as door, chair, window, lamp, plant, drawer, etc., and tape or display them at eye level for young learners. (My 2-year-old learned to read at a very early age when I did this).


Use magnetic letters on the fridge, table or on a magnetic board. Children love to move the magnetic letters around to make words. Scramble the letters of the words they know and have them put them back together as fast as they can.

Reading tip

Finally, run your finger from left to right under the words as you read books together. This allows your child to see the sequence of letters across the words at the same time he/she hears them. Enjoy your time with your young reader.

Anne Burns is a retired reading specialist and trained Reading Recovery teacher.


With the arrival of the new school year, many districts throughout the region have started the year remotely or are splitting time between the classroom and home.

To help connect students, parents and teachers with additional resources, every day in Life we will provide an educational lesson from our partners at News In Education.

We also invite teachers or educational community groups throughout the region to share ideas for lessons or fun educational activities from home for K-12 students, as well as tips and tricks for successful learning from home including getting organized, creating routines, setting up effective learning workspaces, plus fun ideas for exercise breaks, art and craft projects, nature play, science experiments you can safely do at home, nutritious lunch and snack ideas and more.

To submit a guest article for publication, please send in an article no more than 500 words, along with a related photo to with the subject line Learning from Home.

If you have questions or want to learn more about this project and how you can help, please contact Life section editor Michelle Fong at

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