Your four-year-old still doesn’t know his alphabet but that’s okay… right? Frances Yeo, Principal Psychologist at The Child Development Centre, Thomson Paediatric Centre, tells us why you should start getting worried about literacy. – Click Here to View Advertorial

What is literacy?
Simply put, it is the ability to read and write. It includes phonological awareness (knowledge on alphabet principles & letter to sounds), phonics (decoding), fluency, comprehension and vocab, and number knowledge (addition, subtraction). These skills and knowledge are precursor to a child being able to read and write sentences


My child is just four years old. Is it really necessary to be so kiasu and get him started now?
Yes, certainly. Children start to learn language from the day they are born. As they grow and develop, their speech and language skills become increasingly more complex. During the early childhood years, children learn skills that are important to the development of literacy. This stage, known as emergent literacy, begins at birth and continues through the preschool years.


When a child is about four, he should be able to recognise and write some of the letters of the alphabet, read and write his name, match some letters to their sounds, recognise familiar logos and street signs and make up rhymes. Exposing a child early to books is extremely important. Children pick up words (vocabulary), how sentences are formed (grammar, rules of the English Language) through listening and speaking.


The experiences with talking and listening gained during the preschool period prepare children to learn to read and write during the primary school years.  Research has shown that children who read more tend to come from families who read. So parents should be role models.


Research also shows that vocabulary is the strongest predictor for scholastic achievement. Emergent literacy instruction is most beneficial when it begins early in the preschool period. If these skills are not developed, children will face difficulties in other aspects of language skills (e.g. reading comprehension, writing) as academic demands increases.

The Child Development Centre at Thomson Paediatric Centre offers a Pre-Literacy Group programme. What is it about?
The Pre-Literacy Group programme is conducted by our Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) who has been trained to help children, especially those with known or suspected learning difficulties.


The programme, targeted at children from 4 – 6 years old, provides a systematic, structured and multi-sensory method of teaching, such as hands-on activities, focus-on thinking, and attention & listening skills. It includes one initial session for the SLT to assess the child’s reading skills, one final session to assess improvements after the programme and provide recommendations on how his parents can continue to promote their child’s literacy skills, and six group lessons.


Over the eight sessions, children are taught in a series of fun steps to encourage attentive listening and to be able to manipulate sounds in words they hear. Homework is given at the end of each session and it is crucial that the skills taught are followed throughout the week to ensure optimal learning.


Besides encouraging children to develop their social skills, the programme aims to improve phonological awareness skills, which significantly accelerates subsequent reading and writing achievement. It is particularly useful for children who have not been able to pick up reading readily in kindergarten. These children may show signs of reading, writing and learning problems. Children who are developing typically can also join the programme to help them hone their reading skills.


My child is entering Primary 1 next year. What tips can you share to help him ease into primary school system?
a) Encourage him to read books. Promote active reading by asking him questions about the stories that he has read. Develop inferential reading comprehension by asking inferential questions. If your child does not know the answer, explain the answer to him.
b) Ensure that your child is able to read and write words appropriate for children aged six years old.
c) Teach him addition and subtraction of single digit numbers.
d) Your child should be able to print legibly by now.
e) He or she should also be able to separate from caregivers for a longer period.
f) Encourage him to ask questions or seek clarifications when unsure.
g) Teach your child to count money.


About The Child Development Centre
The Child Development Centre at Novena Medical Centre focuses on providing assessment and therapeutic interventions for children with developmental and learning difficulties. The centre adopts a multidisciplinary approach by a team of specialists to access the child and develops the most appropriate treatment plan to help the child overcome his/ her difficulties. The team, consisting paediatricians, child psychologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech & language therapists and dieticians, is able to deliver comprehensive medical and therapy services at one location.


For appointments or enquires, please email to: