Early Literacy for Children, by C.L.

I have read many articles on preparing for TEOTWAWKI that deal with valuable information on caring for our needs and those of our family. These have been full of important information and should be noted. However, I feel there is another skill that each of us needs– teaching our young children to read. I am a teacher, and I love being part of a child’s early literacy experiences. I want to share some things that have worked for my own children and my students.


I am a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and prepper. I have a B.S. in Special Education, an M.S. in Education-Curriculum and Instruction, and an M.A. in Education-Reading. I just finished my degree in reading last year. I teach in a small, rural school in the Midwest. My school is so small that I literally know every student and staff member. We are a family and care for each other. I am currently teaching K-3 special education and junior high resource study hall. My school is so small that the staff members each wear many hats, in order to make it function. In the past, I have taught junior high and senior high special education as well as general education kindergarten. Most of my teaching career has been in the primary grades though.

I do not pretend to know everything about education, but I have learned a few things that I feel need to be shared with others. We all know that beginning literacy is important. These basic skills are the foundation on which later reading and learning are built. Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” I want my grandchildren to have a long list of wonderful literature they can say they have read. This list includes more than the classics; it should also include books that interest them.

Those who are planning for the uncertain times ahead should also be planning for the restructuring of our world. In the future there will be leaders, and I want them to be our children. I want them to be prepared for the task. However, they will not be our country’s future leaders unless they know how to read.

When TEOTWAWKI occurs, you may be responsible for teaching your children or other children in your group. Learning to read is critical to all teaching and learning. Without the knowledge to decode text and put meaning to that text, we are at a loss to learn other areas of curriculum. Every subject area involves reading.

Even after successfully helping many students to read, I am still amazed at how this is possible. Think about it. This very moment, you are looking at a bunch of lines, curves, and dots. At one time they were meaningless to you, but now you are able to make sense of them. You know that these lines, curves, and dots are letters of the alphabet. These letters are put in a specific order to make words. These words are put in a specific order to make sentences. These sentences are put in a specific order to make paragraphs, and these paragraphs have made an article about teaching children to read. I have used punctuation to tell you when to pause or stop as you read. I have used other text features to further help organize this article, enabling you to understand it more easily. A lot is going on as you read.

Basic Information:

Reading involves the following areas:

  • Phonological Awareness. This is the identifying and manipulating of oral language. Phonological awareness involves identifying and making rhymes, clapping out the syllables in word, and recognizing words that have the same beginning or ending sounds.
  • Phonics. This is the understanding that there is a predictable connection between the sounds of our spoken language and the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language.
  • Fluency. Fluency is being able to read text correctly and at an appropriate rate.
  • Vocabulary. Vocabulary refers to the words or terms an individual needs in order to communicate effectively.
  • Comprehension. “Comprehension is the understanding and interpretation of what is read. To be able to accurately understand written material, children need to be able to (1) decode what they read; (2) make connections between what they read and what they already know; and (3) think deeply about what they have read. One big part of comprehension is having a sufficient vocabulary or knowing the meanings of enough words,” according to the Reading Rocket website.

(The definitions for each of the above-mentioned areas of literacy came from the Reading Rockets website. Each specific web page is referenced in parentheses after the definition, and full credit is given to the authors for this information.)

Infants and Toddlers:

What are the first things you need to do to teach your child to read? Most parents and caregivers already do these things, and they’re completely unaware they are teaching literacy. It just seems a natural part of parenting and care giving. However, this natural means of parenting is no longer being practiced by some. When TEOTWAWKI occurs, we will be focused on survival and may neglect to give attention to early literacy. We must not fail in this area. You need to remember to:

  • Get into the habit of talking to your child. Make eye contact, and talk to him from the time he is a newborn.
  • Explain what you are doing as you go about daily tasks. Once again, start this when your child is a newborn. For example, you can name your child’s body parts as you give him a bath.
  • When your baby is hungry, talk about it. Ask him how hungry he is, what he wants to eat, what is in the food, and so forth.
  • Talk about how your child is feeling. Discuss why he may be feeling this way.
  • Use an increasingly rich vocabulary, as your child gets older.
  • Read or recite nursery rhymes to your child, and have him recite them to you.
  • Last but not least…read, read, read to your child every day.

Your infant or toddler may not understand what you are saying, but we learn through personal interactions with others. Point to the illustrations, and name the objects in the pictures. Also, use adjectives when describing the objects illustrated.


As your child grows, you will change the way you interact with her. She will increase communication and interactions with others. There will be an increased curiosity about the world in which she lives.

  • You will hear “why” more times than you care to count. Try to be patient, and answer as many of these questions as you can.
  • Continue talking to her, explaining what you are doing and why.
  • Use an increasingly rich vocabulary with your preschooler. She needs to hear more than “baby talk” at this stage of her life.
  • Show your child any directions you are reading, and discuss them. This may include manuals you use when servicing tools or machinery, directions on planting your garden, recipes, and more.
  • Write for your child, and have her write for you. Start with her name, the names of family and friends, and items that are of interest. These may include favorite foods, toys, or items in the house or yard.
  • Continue reading nursery rhymes.
  • Once again…read, read, read to your child every day. Sit beside her, and put your finger under the text as you are reading. Discuss the illustrations. Stop to predict what might happen in the story. Ask questions about the story. Have her retell the story to you. Point out letters that are in your child’s name and simple words in the text.

Primary School-Aged Children:

Each child develops at his own pace. Do not expect him to follow an exact timeframe to attain reading. Some children are reading by age three or four, and others learn to read at age six or seven. This is due to many factors, including life circumstances. When TEOTWAWKI occurs, your child may be under a great deal of stress. This could affect learning and other developmental areas. Do not let this trouble you. Just keep teaching, and watch for continued increases in skills. As long as this is occurring, let him develop at his own rate.

  • Continue answering his many questions.
  • Give your child as many life experiences as you can. This may be through direct experiences, reading, hearing stories from others, pretending, or watching movies. When TEOTWAWKI occurs this will not be an issue, but before TEOTWAWKI technology should be limited.
  • Continue rhyming.
  • Give direct instruction on identifying and naming letters of the alphabet, and give the sound or sounds for those letters. Do not use the schwa sound when teaching letter sounds. The schwa is the “uh” many people use after consonant sounds. For example, saying “buh” for the ‘b’ sound, “cuh” for ‘c’ sound, and “duh” for ‘d,’ can make reading more difficult for some children.
  • Have your child name items that begin with specific letters/sounds, blends, and digraphs. Have pictures of items that begin with specific sounds, and have your child sort these pictures by sound. (Included in Bev Tyner resources listed below.)
  • Teach your child basic phonics rules.
  • Teach your child the 100 most frequently occurring words in children’s books and basic sight words. (Included in Bev Tyner resources listed below.)
  • Put letters and sounds together to make words. Have your child write these words and read them to you. This may be done on paper or chalkboards, or with alphabet magnets on a cookie sheet. It is acceptable for your child to use “brave spelling.” He may write “is krem” for “ice cream.” This is actually a wonderful use of phonics skills for beginning readers and writers.
  • Have your child tap or clap individual sounds in words. Tap or clap the syllables in words too.
  • Teach him to construct simple sentences.
  • Have him read books at his reading level, neither too difficult nor too easy. You want to provide success but not bore or frustrate him. This can be achieved by providing both fiction and nonfiction books at your child’s level. I compare reading to sports. When one is first learning to play baseball, it would not be advisable to have Adam Wainwright or Michael Wacha from the St. Louis Cardinals pitch to you. Also, the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday would not want me to pitch to them. Just as we need to play sports at our skill level, we also need to read at our reading level. An exception to this is a child who has an interest in a book or subject matter that is outside their reading level. Let him read the book if he is interested, and give him support as needed. You may be surprised at how well he does when motivated by his interests.
  • Read for your own pleasure or for information. Do this daily, if possible. When your child sees you read, he knows that you place an importance on reading, and he will want to emulate your actions.
  • Every day…read books aloud to your child, and have him read to you. In addition to reading books with your child that are at his reading level, read books to him that are about two years above his independent reading level. This will expand his vocabulary, as well as give him a greater knowledge base to understand what he reads.


Small-Group Reading Instruction: A Differentiated Teaching Model for Beginning and Struggling Readers by Beverly Tyrone is a helpful resource and can purchased on Amazon. The book explains how to teach beginning literacy, and a compact disc is included with all of the picture cards, flash cards, and writing resources you will need to begin reading instruction. These can be printed and used to teach your child.

Other helpful resources are the phonemic awareness curricula by Michael Heggerty. If they are not currently available on Amazon, they may also be purchased at http://www.literacyresourcesinc.com/store/curriculum/. These are quick lessons, which can be completed in no more than fifteen minutes. The Internet site for Reading Rockets also has many, helpful, no-cost resources.

I am not affiliated with any of these resources or their publishers in any way, and I do not receive any reimbursement from any parties involved. I have simply found all to be proven, successful ways to teach beginning literacy. They have saved me many hours in lesson preparation, and I believe they will do the same for you.

Instructional Materials:

I would advise having the following instructional materials in a large, plastic tote.

  • Pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, and pens
  • Linedand unlined paper
  • Small chalkboards and chalk, or small dry erase boards and dry erase markers. You can get erasers for these or just use rags.
  • Alphabet cardsand picture cards (The Tyrone book and CD are an easy way to get these. I would make at least two copies. Then, cut, laminate (or print on card stock), and sort one copy, while leaving the other on whole sheets. The extra copy could be used if any cards get lost or destroyed, or they could be put at a bug-out location.)
  • Alphabet magnets(These may be used on cookie sheets or baking pans.)
  • You will need a library of books. Include both fiction and nonfiction books, covering a wide variety of subjects and at primary to adult reading levels. You may purchase these books individually or in sets of leveled readers. Sets are available from a variety of sources on the Internet, and some are reasonably priced. I would also include magazines in subject areas that are of interest to your group members. Some children enjoy reading magazines more than books.


I have written an article containing about two thousand, four hundred words telling you how to teach the beginnings of literacy. This has been an extremely abbreviated summary. However, it is my hope that it will give you the confidence and some of the information you will need for the task.

I believe that anyone can teach. Receiving a degree in education does not make one a teacher. Be patient, and share your knowledge with the next generation. Do this now. Do not wait for TEOTWAWKI. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” Through educating your children, they will change the world.