Parent involvement in early literacy is the key to academic success

Parent involvement in early literacy is the key to academic success by Dr. Erika Burton of Stepping Stones Together

Early childhood education sets the stage for future academic achievement.

Whether you choose a pre-school setting, home school your child, or a combination of both exposure and parent modeling of literacy skills before, during and after the preschool years is essential.


A study conducted last spring in over 27 countries and over 20 years confirmed that having over 500 books in ones’ home is more important to a child’s projected academic success than a parent’s education. There are few studies to date on parent involvement in early literacy skills and development when reading with them. Yet, educators know that the number one predictor of lifelong academic achievement is parental involvement.

What are some best practices to help your child learn beginning literacy skills?

Where do you start if your child does not know their letters or sounds?

  1. Expose your child to literacy in natural occurring situations– Point out stop, speed, and washroom signs
  2. Label your house– Make a project out of writing and taping the words for things around your house that your child can see, touch, and repeat every day.
  3. Alphabet fun– Play with the alphabet out of order through developing letter of the day, week, or month and try to incorporate meals, toys, pictures on the internet, books. Have your child help you. Take pictures and/or develop a book for each. Develop opportunities for your child to make each letter cutting them from sponges, or forming them using play dough or even dye in snow!
  4. 4. Sound fun- Make up songs, games, or dances using the sounds of each letter in the alphabet. Buy a puzzle or game that says the sound of each letter as a review.

Where do you start if your child is ready to read?

  1. Investigate- The first reading steps are always the most nerve wrecking. Make sure your child is ready. Does your child know their letters and sounds?
  2. What are the signs of a child ready to read?– Does your child pretend to read books, ask you what words say, attempt to sound out letters in words, know words are devised of letters and spaces indicate new words? Has your child told you they want to learn to read?
  3. Start and stop when your child is eager- Beginning reading is hard. Consistency in small chunks of time works best. Always make sure they are having fun and within their frustration threshold.
  4. Use a repetitive simple text book- Allow your child to select an easy reader that can be completed in one sitting of 5-10 minutes. Research suggests choice is important in reading motivation.
  5. Picture walk- Predict and preview each page in a book using picture clues to identify story details
  6. Model- Do an initial read through of the book allowing your child to see best beginning reading practices of pointing to each word with your finger.
  7. Guide them- Allow your child to read the text helping them when necessary with difficult words in context.
  8. Review and discuss- Ask story questions related to vocabulary, connecting the text to your child’s experiences, and to check for basic reading comprehension.
  9. Write- Have your child share as you transcribe or bravely attempt to write their thoughts on characters, problems, situations and their experiences with each story.
  10. Review high frequency words- Review words such as; a, the, and, this… however you see fit.
  11. Consistency- Work daily through these steps whenever possible.

Guest Writer Biography

Dr. Erika Burton founded Stepping Stones Together to provide parents with an easy-to-use and reasonably priced online reading program to help parents instill a love for reading with children ages 3-7.

In 2005, Burton co-founded Orion’s Mind, an Educational Company with an overarching mission to close the educational achievement gap in Chicago. The company started with two employees. Orion’s Mind is one of the largest supplemental education providers in Illinois behind Chicago Public School’s own supplemental curriculum called Aim High. The company serves thousands of Chicago Public students in grades K-8 each school year. Orion’s Mind is also the largest supplemental provider in Waukegan, Illinois, Public Schools for grades K-8 students.

Dr. Burton earned her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies with a minor in research and supervision from Loyola University in Chicago in 2004. She completed her master’s degree in Elementary Education from Aurora University in 1998 and her Bachelor’s Degree in 1996 from The University of Arizona.

Burton worked closely from 2005- 2009 to  develop and revise curriculum, develop and facilitate the instructor and lead instructor trainings, and the instructor supervision program designed to ensure consistent and successful implementation of the Orion’s Mind curriculum.

While obtaining her professional degrees, Burton taught second grade in a bilingual classroom in the inner city of Los Angeles, first grade on the west side of Chicago in a restructured school, third grade at Holmes Elementary in Oak Park, IL, and later served as an Assistant Principal at River Grove Elementary School.

Burton has continued to support teachers as an adjunct professor for Roosevelt and National Louis University with a focus on teaching educational leadership, action research, early childhood and elementary education. She is dedicated to closing the educational achievement gap working with teachers to develop strategies to help all students achieve measurable results. Burton was awarded grant money in 2007 by National Louis University to ensure teachers use action research to better serve their students.

Burton presented at the 2007 Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference in Orlando, Florida, the National Louis University’s Imagination conference in 2006 and the ASCD’s Midwest conference in 2006 focusing on multi-disciplinary approaches to learning.

Her most recent publication was in Burton, E. (2009, August). 21st century focus: brain learning. Southeast Educators Network, (11.2).

Why was Stepping Stones Together Created?

Stepping Stones Together was designed to address a needed resource I could not find when searching for a parent/child beginning literacy program to help my own children, and to provide highly motivational reading resources for parents and caregivers to help their child who is ready to read. I wanted to meet the needs of busy parents, being one myself, and make it easy to use, and it was designed with realistic daily practice commitments in mind. This program can be completed within 15-20 minutes each day, and within just 60 days, you should see a noticeable improvement in your child’s beginning reading skills.

Deborah J Stewart

Deborah J Stewart

Every time I think I know everything I need to know about teaching young children, God says, "Hold on a minute!" and gives me a new challenge.

Let me tell ya...

With each new challenge that you overcome, you will find yourself better equipped and more passionate about teaching young children.

God didn't call wimps to lead, teach, or care for His children. Nope, he has high expectations, so get ready. You will have to give your very best but after teaching for over 30 years, I can tell you that it is a wonderful and rewarding journey.

Whenever your calling feels hard, just remember, 'He who began a good work in you (and in the children you serve) will be faithful to complete it.'

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