Your Child Is An Early Emergent Reader! Now What?


Children go through different stages when learning to read. And while the ages in which children will pass through these stages vary, based on the popular theory by New Zealand researcher Marie Claire, preschoolers and kindergarteners are often considered Emergent Readers.


The Emergent Reader group can be further divided into Early Emergent Readers followed by Emergent Readers. While the ages at which children go through these stages is in no way set in stone, typically children ages 3 to 4 or 5 years of age (preschool years) are considered to be in the Early Emergent Readers stage. Below are some ideas of what you as a parent can expect in this stage, how you can help your Early Emergent Reader, and some of the most popular books for this stage.

Characteristics of Early Emergent Readers

Children in this stage are in the process of learning basic concepts about books and reading. They are learning that we read from left to right and top to bottom. They are learning to identify the parts of a book including the title, the title page, and the author. They are beginning to acquire a command of the alphabet with the ability to recognize and name upper- and lowercase letters. They are also developing many phonological awareness skills, such as recognizing phonemes, syllables, and rhyme. They are beginning to learn sound/symbol relationships–starting with consonants and short vowels–and are able to read short words that follow the CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) pattern such as cat, sit, bet. They are also learning a large number of words that appear with a high frequency, as well as grasping sentences and becoming aware of punctuation. At this stage they are also learning and practicing reading strategies, relying on pictures and contextual clues to understand the text. They can retell a simple story, and can even make a connection between what they know and what they just read.

Characteristics of Books for Early Emergent Readers

Books for Early Emergent Readers are often called picture books. These books have pictures which clearly illustrate the story, and carefully controlled text. They are often based around familiar concepts, and contain familiar objects and experiences. There is limited text on each page, and that text contains rhyming words, repetitive words and patterns, large print, and wide letter spacing.

When reading with your Early Emergent Reader make sure your child is part of the process and not just a passive listener. Point out the author and illustrator, and be sure to give a basic explanation of what each does. Also point out the title, and title page. Point to the words as you read aloud, trailing your (or his) finger from word to word as your eyes move from left to right, and top to bottom. Encourage your child to  ‘read’ or ‘pretend read’ familiar books  – this is where your child is actually reading from memory and/or using the pictures to tell the story. And always talk about the story after reading such as what happened in the beginning, middle and end, who his favorite character is and why, and what his favorite part was.

A List of Popular Early Emergent Reader Books

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle,
  • The Fox on the Box by Barbara Gregorich
  • The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
  • Buzz Said the Bee by Wendy Cheyette Lewison
  • The Z Was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Ten in the Bed by David Ellwand
  • Look What I Can Do by Jose Aruego
  • Do You Want to Be My Friend? by Eric Carl
  • Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue? by Tana Hoban
  • Trains by Gail Gibbons
  • Octopus Goes Walking Carolyn Bordelon
  • The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
  • A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein
  • The Icky Bug Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta