Building Blocks To Reading

You may wonder if your child with hearing loss can learn to read and write. Yes! Your child can become a healthy reader using listening and spoken language (LSL). There are key tools related to literacy you’ll need to focus on with your child. By combining these literacy building blocks with the LSL strategies you’re learning, you’ll be able to grow your baby’s brain for a lifetime of reading and unlimited possibilities.


Today, the word literacy means even more than reading and writing. It also means being good in math, having technology skills and being able to solve problems. High levels of literacy are needed to do well in school and in a job and will open doors for future success in life.

A solid foundation in LSL can help your baby develop high levels of literacy and grow into a healthy reader because a primary goal of LSL is for your baby to meet the same talking, reading, and writing milestones as their hearing friends. Research tells us that to do well in school and in life, children need to be reading at grade level by third grade. What this means is that from preschool through second grade, teachers and parents spend time teaching children how to read. Beginning in third grade, children have to make a switch so that they can gain new knowledge and skills through reading. This is sometimes called moving from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  And the ability to read to learn is a skill that continues into adulthood.

The same LSL strategies that will lead to your child’s success in listening and talking are building blocks to reading. Through LSL early intervention, you’ll be working toward the goal of preparing your child to read to learn by third grade.

Get your baby started on a lifetime of reading by using these LSL strategies in your daily routine:

In Their Own Words | Meet Julie Lyles Carr, mother of a child with hearing loss, as she talks about the outcomes she wanted for her daughter and the LSL goals she has achieved.

Read aloud 15 MINUTES. Every child. Every parent. Every day. “Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.”


As you’re building your baby’s LSL foundation, you can begin developing the literacy skills they’ll need to be successful in reading, school, and life. Science tells us that your child’s ability to develop these skills plays a role in how your child will learn, which impacts their future success.

Children who are good with spoken language and vocabulary can become healthy readers. Healthy readers with good reading comprehension can learn anything and are likely to do well in school. If you have set literacy and doing well in school as high priorities for your child, there are some basic building blocks you’ll want to understand and begin using:

  • Spoken Language & Vocabulary: This is the way your child speaks and uses their words to describe and share their thoughts.
  • Narrative Development: This is the way your child talks about their experiences and tells stories.
  • Phonological Awareness: This is the way your child is able to understand how sounds, syllables, words, and sentences are formed.
  • Print Knowledge: This is the way your child understands that letters make words and that the words match what we say.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the building blocks to literacy.

Spoken Language & Vocabulary

Children develop spoken language and vocabulary skills before they learn to read. Spoken language and vocabulary mean the way your child uses their words to describe and share their thoughts. They’ll have conversations with friends and use many different words to talk about their experiences. These are the skills your child will be expected to use in school. If your child has good spoken language and vocabulary, they’ll have what it takes to learn to read. Strive to reach 40 million words in the early years so they’re on a path to sharing great conversations and reading to learn by third grade.

Narrative Development

Narrative development refers to the way your child talks about their experiences and tells stories. Story-based skills are crucial for success in literacy. When your child can listen, understand, and retell familiar stories, they’ll have the skill to be able to understand what they read. But before they can write a story, they must be able to tell a story. Telling their own stories and retelling stories they’ve heard will help them learn to write stories.

In the early years, your child will practice telling and retelling stories. In LSL intervention, you’ll learn how to guide your child using LSL strategies as they learn to talk about their experiences. You’ll also talk a lot about your own experiences. This will help your child be able to recount an event in the order that it happened and to be able to share their thoughts and ideas using the right words.

Try It

Tell A Tale: Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This structure is an important skill for your child to learn. Talk about the stories, actions, characters, and their feelings. Your child will learn to talk about their own experiences and feelings, and they’ll even start making up stories of their own.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to the way your child is able to understand how sounds, syllables, words, and sentences are formed. Some experts say that your child’s phonological awareness skills in kindergarten are the best predictor of their reading and spelling success later on.

A child with hearing loss needs to know that spoken language can be broken down in various ways – that is sentences into words, words into syllables, and syllables into individual speech sounds. You’ll want to find fun and meaningful ways for your child to learn these skills. Your LSL interventionist will guide you to learn how to help your child pay attention to the differences in sounds, syllables, words, and sentences. Your goal is to develop a finely tuned ear, which will help your child grow into a healthy reader.

Print Awareness

Print awareness refers to the way your child understands that letters make words and that the words match what you say. Print awareness is a skill that leads to literacy, as science tells us that the more your child is aware of print, the more efficiently they can learn to read.

Having print awareness means that your child knows the letters of the alphabet and understands that written language has meaning and is connected to spoken language. Print awareness also means that your child knows how to hold a book and that words are read from left to right and top to bottom.

Through a LSL approach, you’ll learn strategies to help your child focus on print awareness and the childhood development milestones for all of the skills needed for success in listening, spoken language, and literacy.

Living the LSL Life: Reading Success In 2nd Grade

Hunter is in second grade with hearing friends. Watch as she participates in reading with her classmates.

Also on the Web

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young children learn to read and on how caring adults can help.

Scholastic, an organization whose mission is to encourage the intellectual and personal growth of all children beginning with literacy, offers a variety of resources for parents to raise readers and learners.

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is a collaborative effort that focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation -- grade-level reading by third grade -- and how to grow healthy readers.