Glossary of Early Learning and Literacy Terms

This list comes from the National Center for Learning Disorders. Parents should be familiar with these terms. 

 

Alphabetic Principle

The idea that all letters have corresponding sounds and that letters and sounds can be put together to build words.

 

Balanced Approach

A way of teaching reading that features different kinds of instruction. It usually means a combination of phonics and whole language instruction. Using this approach, children learn to read through daily exposure to literature as well as instruction on the basic how-to skills of reading and writing.

 

Basal Reading Program

An approach to reading instruction that uses textbooks to guide the teaching of reading skills and strategies.

 

Big Book

An oversize book used by a teacher for reading to a group that allows the children to more easily look at pictures, words, letters and sounds, and/or read along with the teacher.

 

Comprehension

The ability to pull meaning from spoken and written words.

 

Concepts of Print

Ideas about how print conveys meaning that children need to have before they can learn to read, such as the left-to-right direction of text, the difference between letters and words, and the parts of a book.

 

Decodable Texts

Books for beginning readers that contain words with the same vowel sounds and similar spellings, such as, “The fat cat sat on the mat.”

 

Decode

The ability to sound out letters and words.

 

Developmental (Invented) Spelling

Spelling that results when young children use what they know about letters and sounds to write, for example, “I can read” spelled as “i kn rd.”

 

Developmental Lag

When a child’s development in a particular area is behind most children of the same age.

 

Dyslexia

Difficulty in reading, spelling, writing, and related language skills that results from an impairment in the way the brain processes information.

 

Early Reader

An early reader can read and sound out words and is able to extract meaning from what they read. Whereas an emergent reader may look to pictures to predict what will happen in a story, an early reader will use the pictures to check their understanding of what they read.

 

Emergent (Early) Literacy

The belief that literacy learning is an ongoing process that begins at birth and takes place when children have meaningful interactions with adults, including that they are read to, encouraged to talk about stories and events, and given opportunities to explore books on their own.

 

Emergent Reader

A child in the beginning stages of learning to read. This child knows the letters of the alphabet and can begin to match them with the sounds they make. The child also knows how to handle a book and interpret pictures. Emergent readers “play” at reading by retelling familiar stories and using pictures to make predictions.

 

Environmental Print

Words and symbols encountered outside of books in everyday life, such as product labels, logos, and traffic signs.

 

Family Literacy

Family literacy programs help families become stronger and more self-sufficient by building the skills and advancing the education of both the parents and the children. While the children are provided with preschool learning experiences, parents have the opportunity to receive instruction in adult literacy and parenting skills.

 

Fluent Reader

A fluent reader reads most words and phrases and is able to use varying strategies to figure out the pronunciation and meaning of unknown words and phrases. A fluent reader is able to question the meaning of what is being read.

 

Functional print

Writing used for a specified purpose, such as signs, directions, lists, and personal messages.

 

Learning Center

In an early childhood program, this is an area that contains materials, such as blocks, pretend household items or art supplies, where children can explore their own interests at their own pace.

 

Learning Disability

A disorder that results in learning challenges that are not caused by low intelligence, problems with hearing or vision , or lack of educational opportunity. Many children with learning disabilities have difficulties in particular skill areas, such as reading or math, or with language skills. These children may also have difficulties with paying attention and getting along with their peers.

 

Letter Knowledge

The ability to identify letters of the alphabet.

Letter Recognition

The ability to name a letter that is displayed or find a letter in a group.

Letter-Sound Correspondence

The ability to say or write the letter that corresponds to a speech sound.

 

Onset

All of the sounds in a word that come before the first vowel, for example /str-/ in “string.”

 

Phoneme

The smallest units of sound that may be used to form words. For example, p-ea-k (peak) has three phonemes.

 

Phonemic Awareness

The awareness that spoken words are made of sounds, and the ability to identify individual sounds in spoken words.

 

Phonemic Blending

Blending individual sounds together to make words, for example c-a-t to “cat.”

 

Phonemic Segmentation

The opposite of phonemic blending, separating a word into sounds, for example “cat” to c-a-t.

 

Phonics

The relationship between letters and the sounds they make.

 

Phonics Instruction

An approach to reading instruction that focuses on the sounds and spellings of written words.

 

Phonological Awareness

The ability to understand the relationships of sounds in spoken words. At a simple level, children can identify rhyming words. At a more complex level, children can identify similarities in sounds and spellings.

 

Picture Cues

Story illustrations that are closely matched to the words so that a reader can refer to the picture for help if he or she has difficulty with an unknown word.

 

Primary Language

The first language a child learns to speak.

 

Print Awareness

Awareness of the rules of written language, such as knowing that letters and numbers convey meaning and that words are separated by spaces.

 

Read Aloud

During a read aloud, a book that is too advanced for a child to read aloud to himself or herself is read aloud by an adult. The purpose of a read aloud is to expose children to a variety of books and to inspire a love for reading.

 

Reading Strategies

Approaches a reader uses to help discover the meaning of words and phrases, such as studying illustrations and making predictions.

 

Repeated Reading

Rereading a book for the purpose of allowing children to become familiar with recurring phrases, a procedure that helps children gain a better understanding of the story, learn new vocabulary, and understand concepts they might not grasp in one reading.

 

Retelling

Summary of events in a story as told by a child that helps a parent or teacher gauge the child’s understanding of the story and ability to use language.

 

Rime

The first vowel in a word along with all of the sounds that follow, for example,/-utterfly/ in “butterfly.”

 

Running Record

A method of observing, scoring, and analyzing a child’s reading.

 

Shared Reading

During shared reading, teacher and students read a familiar poem or story together. Shared reading gives young children opportunities to read, gain confidence as readers, and appreciate reading as a social activity.

 

Sight Word

A word that a child recognizes and reads without having to sounding it out.

 

Syllable

The smallest part that a spoken word can be broken that includes a vowel, for example, “watermelon” has four syllables: wa-ter-mel-on.

 

Vocabulary

The collection or list of words and word phrases

 

Whole Language Instruction

An approach to reading instruction that focuses on learning the meaning and messages of the written words through exposure to poetry and literature. Children are encouraged to use language creatively and expressively.

 

Word Wall

A tool to help young readers learn to recognize and read specific words. Words are listed alphabetically on a chart and displayed in the classroom for children to refer to while reading.

 

Wordless Books

Picture storybooks containing no words used to encourage storytelling and language skills.

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