A Literacy Framework: Stages of Literacy Development

The broad continuum of reading and writing behaviors has been described as stages or phases of literacy development. Most children with and without disabilities tend to follow this same general path, though not always according to the same timeline. These stage descriptions are intended as a guide for teachers as observers, not as a skill sequence or prescriptive steps. The indicators offer information that helps us to notice and describe a student's current literacy knowledge and abilities (i.e., his/her literacy behaviors).  Referencing this frame/ sequence can offer considerations for possible next steps for experiences and instruction--in order to support students' ongoing development. See descriptions of characteristics for each stage below. (Disregard typical chronological ages/ grade levels for each stage.) 

It's important to note that the chronological ages of literacy learners can vary widely for any stage. During these early stages, learners typically demonstrate some abilities from more than one stage. Some students may demonstrate many early reading and writing behaviors by age 5 or 6. There are also teenagers or adults who have had limited experiences and opportunities with literacy who demonstrate emergent reading and writing behaviors. Regardless of chronological age, it is possible to provide age appropriate developmental literacy experiences and instruction that match each learner's current reading and writing abilities. Respectful decisions involve carefully selecting materials and developing authentic literacy routines. Because many students with developmental disabilities demonstrate emergent and early characteristics, this site's examples and suggestions will focus on these early stages of literacy development. We will share ideas and examples for elementary and secondary age students who are demonstrating characteristics of emergent and early literacy learners.