The Importance of Early Literacy

Two children reading the books sitting in front of a bookcase


“15% of five-year-olds are at risk of not developing the literacy skills they need to succeed later in life.” (1)

Early childhood literacy can have lasting impacts on a person’s financial stability, healthy living and their confidence within community. Without it children may not have the ability to communicate and build connections around them. We need these things to live a happy life and to feel empowered.

What is literacy?
Literacy has been defined as the “ability to read, write, communicate and comprehend” and is taught to children during their early years through communication, speech, reading and rhyme. (2) Unfortunately, not all children have equal access to quality education or programs that teach early childhood literacy. This disadvantage has a huge impact on their futures.

Why is literacy important?
Multiple studies have shown the importance of early literacy skills and their impact on a child’s ability to become a part of community and to live productive and healthy lives. Ultimately, it becomes an investment in the future of our children and the future of our society.

“Poor literacy skills have been associated with lower self-esteem, poorer educational and social outcomes and higher rates of unemployment, welfare dependence and teenage pregnancy.”(3)

Increased attention to early literacy can prevent the following future issues:

1) Their educational futures
Children that do not develop adequate literacy skills by the age of 5 are significantly more disadvantaged at school and socially than their peers, as 90% of brain development happens by that age. (4)

Difficulties with literacy is disproportionately higher for children from disadvantaged homes, as they have limited access to early childhood education. This often leads to them not being able to catch up and results in lower academic success. (3)

Also, falling behind can significantly impact a child’s confidence and leave them feeling unmotivated and disheartened to continue future studies. There has even been research that has shown how this can lead to children being four times more likely to drop out of high school. (5)

A 2 year old boy looking at a book called ' The Family book'
Early childhood literacy

2) Their employment
Limited early literacy also increases the likelihood of unemployment due to their performance at school.
The low graduation rate among these children impacts the opportunities available for them to continue studying. Also, it affects their ability to obtain successful employment as they may not have the experience required for certain positions or may have difficulty filling out job applications. (6)

Without employment, other issues like experiencing homelessness and problems surrounding nutrition can impact a child’s future. This shows how low early literacy rates can have lasting consequences for children that are not given appropriate access to quality education. (5)

3) Their health
In addition to the low employment opportunities, children who have limited early literacy skills experience lower health outcomes. This is typically a result of their decreased job security, which impacts their ability to access health insurance or cover healthcare costs. (2) The issues surrounding employment can result in limited access to certain foods and medicine that everyone needs to live a healthy life.

Also, research has confirmed that the literacy capabilities of a child act as a predictor of future wellbeing. (7) With children who have better early literacy skills living longer due to increased access to health services, according to Dr. Brett Hart.

Parents with two children reading two books in their hand
Early childhood literacy

4) Impact on community
Early literacy impacts how involved a child is in their community and how well they integrate into society in their adult years. This was revealed by the link between high levels of literacy and an increased self-esteem and motivation to learn. This significantly impacts their willingness to participate in community and exhibit socially acceptable behaviour. (2)

These positive impacts are important in creating empowerment, living a happy life and becoming active members of community. Confidence and feeling included has been shown to prevent mental health issues and the likelihood of becoming incarcerated as an adult.

The importance of early childhood literacy is clear in every aspect of life and that is why it is one of our primary pillars. If you’re interested in finding out more about childhood literacy issues in WA, please join us at the Three Pillars Education Seminar on the 29th of August. Get your tickets here!



Ena Gojkovic

Ena is a rising marketing creative and current intern on the United Way WA team.

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