Family working on literacy skills with child

Literacy Skills: What are they and how can Speech-Language Pathologists help?

What is Literacy?

Literacy skills encompass both the ability to read and write. These skills are an integral part of a child’s development and success at every stage of life.

Think about your day-to-day life and how often you engage your literacy abilities; reading medicine bottles to check it’s name, when they should be taken, and how much should be taken. Or how about driving; do you know when to stop, which exit to take, how to read your directions on your GPS? Or how about your ability to write a check…these are just three small examples of engaging your literacy skills of reading and writing.

Now push yourself to think of these skills in an academic way, such as writing reports or reading textbooks. Literacy skills are wide-reaching and continue to gain in complexity through a child’s development.

Causes of Decreased Literacy Skills

There could be many reasons why a child can have difficulty with their literacy skills, including dyslexia, ADHD, an undiagnosed learning disability, a hearing or vision loss, decreased exposure, and models of literacy. Further, children who frequently miss school or constantly change schools have also been linked to reduced literacy skills.

Trajectory of Decreased Literacy Skills

A child can begin to show a decrease in literacy skills from a young age. Many do not recognize these difficulties until a child is older (typically elementary school level) when they begin to have immense difficulties reading to learn new information. However, a child can be identified to have literacy difficulties as early as preschool.

Difficulties that can be seen early include struggling to manipulate sounds in words, difficulty with rhyming, word games, and or recognizing words that start with the same sound. Difficulties that tend to arise later include struggling with the following skills: pronouncing new words and remembering them, breaking words apart into sounds, blending sounds together to make words, and recalling the sounds of letters.

If these difficulties are not addressed as needed, a child is at risk for limited ability to obtain and understand essential information which can have an impact on their overall health and well-being as reading skills are tied to independence, social activities, and completing everyday activities across the lifespan.

slt chart

How can Literacy Skills be Improved?

Due to the complexity of literacy skills, there is no one way to teach or treat literacy difficulties. Some children are proficient in reading but have much difficulty with their spelling and writing skills. Other children have difficulty with both reading and writing.

Identification of these difficulties begins with a comprehensive evaluation by a speech-language pathologist. The evaluation is contingent upon the child’s needs – skills that can be probed include phonological awareness skills, letter names and sounds, word reading fluency, passage reading fluency, reading comprehension, and writing skills. When it comes to providing treatment, there is continuous evidence emerging supporting a multisensory approach for literacy skills.

This includes incorporating visual cues, such as a sound board, pictured above, and tactile cues, such as spelling in the air, using paint and gel bags, manipulating clay to make letters and words, etc. These strategies are used here at KidSense and have continuously proven to improve literacy skills!





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