Emergent literacy is such an important stage. It is at this pivotal moment that students often discover the magic hidden within pages and LOVE being read to as they also start their reading journey. This phase is more than just an introduction to reading—it’s a celebration of stories, an initiation into a world where every page holds a promise of discovery and they gain confidence as they begin to see themselves as readers!

What is an Emergent Reader?

An emergent reader is a child starting to learn the basics of reading. At this stage of development, they’re beginning to notice that written text carries meaning, and they often recognize signs or logos in their surroundings. They understand that in English, we read from left to right, and they’re starting to identify some words and sound out simple ones. Often, they’ll “read” a story by using the pictures as clues or by recalling it from memory.

In terms of reading skills, emergent readers have started to develop phonemic awareness and are able to recognize familiar patterns and sounds. They are building their oral language skills and understanding the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent.

The Importance of the Emergent Reader Phase crucial

During the Emergent Reader stage, children are introduced to high-frequency words and develop the foundational skills necessary for reading. They explore picture books, which not only help develop their reading skills but also enhance their comprehension. The pictures in these books aid in understanding the text and provide a visual context, making the reading experience more enriching.

An interest in reading is vital during the Emergent Reader stage. It is an exciting time when children start to realize the relationship between letters and sounds and gain an understanding of phonics. As they encounter repetitive patterns and familiar topics, their phonemic awareness grows, and their confidence in reading increases.

The habits and skills cultivated at this stage greatly influence a child’s later ability to read fluently, comprehend complex texts, and think critically about the content. In essence, the emergent reading stage is like building the foundation for a house; if it’s strong and well-established, it supports all the subsequent learning built upon it.

Strategies for the Emergent Reader

Engaging an emergent reader is an exciting time in their reading journey. As they begin to develop their foundational skills, there are various strategies that can be employed to support their progress and foster a love for reading. The following are a few strategies to consider:

Collect Easy-to-Read Books

Choosing stories that are easy to follow and retell is crucial. The following is a good guideline (links are amazon affiliate links):

  • Chain or Circular Story: Like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” these stories are designed in such a way that the ending loops back to the beginning.
  • Cumulative Story: Think of “This is the House that Jack Built.” Whenever a new event unfolds, all previous events get reiterated.
  • Familiar Sequence: “Today is Monday” sorts stories based on known themes such as the days of the week or numbers.
  • Pattern Stories: In stories like “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” certain scenes get replayed with minor variations.
  • Question and Answer: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” uses repetitive questions throughout its storyline to engage readers.
  • Repetition of Phrase: Books like “Goodnight Moon” have a recurring phrase or sentence structure that helps the reader anticipate what’s coming next.
  • Rhyme: Stories with consistent rhyming patterns, refrains, or repeated patterns make for an engaging read.
  • Songbooks: Who doesn’t love a good tune? Books that are based on familiar songs with repetitive phrases can be particularly captivating for young readers.

Encourage Pretend Reading

Kids love pretending, so why not leverage that? Encourage them to “read” books they’re familiar with by recalling the storyline. This method does two-fold wonders: it exercises their memory and gives you a glimpse into their comprehension of book concepts.

Finger Point Reading

This method involves using the finger to trace each word as it’s read aloud, ensuring the reader connects spoken words to their written counterparts. The physical act of pointing to words as they are pronounced reinforces the left-to-right progression of the text and enhances comprehension. For many young learners, this tactile experience aids in memory retention and improves reading fluency. It also helps maintain the reader’s focus.

Have Discussions about the Book

By discussing the book, readers think critically about its narrative elements. Discuss the illustrations, character motivations, and pivotal events and how they might relate to the child’s life. This not only enhances their understanding of the material but also solidifies the meaning and intent behind the words.

Guided Reading Level A Bundle

As we guide emergent readers on their reading journey, we have an array of strategies at our disposal. From carefully curated book selections to encouraging pretend reading, finger-point reading, and insightful discussions, these techniques foster engagement, comprehension, and a deep-seated love for reading. It’s a collaborative effort, where parents, educators, and caregivers come together to shape the literary landscape of a child’s future.


Neuman, S. B. and D. Dickinson, Eds. (2011). Handbook of Early Literacy Research.