Developmental Language and Literacy Milestones

Birth to eight months

  • Cries to communicate pain or discomfort
  • Smiles or vocalizes for social interaction
  • Responds to human voices
  • Uses vocal and non-vocal communication to express self
  • Uses all sorts of sounds as babbling
  • Engages in private conversations when alone
  • Understands names of familiar people and objects
  • Laughs
  • Listens to conversations
  • Laughs
  • Listens to conversations

Eight to eighteen months

  • Understands many more words than can say
  • Looks towards 20 or more objects when named
  • Creates long, babbled sentences
  • Shakes head no
  • Says two or three clear words
  • Looks at picture books and points to objects
  • Uses vocal signals to gain assistance (other than crying)
  • Begins to use me, you, I

Eighteen Months to three years

  • Combines words into simple statements
  • Listens to stories for a short while
  • Has a speaking vocabulary that may reach 200 words
  • Uses fantasy in language and plays pretend games
  • Begins to use rhyming language and nonsense words in play
  • Defines use of many common household items
  • Uses compound sentences
  • Begins to use adjectives and adverbs
  • Recalls events of the day
  • Recognizes specific books by cover
  • Listens to stories being read
  • Pretends to read books
  • Begins to understand how to handle books
  • Interacts with adults during read alouds
  • Labels objects in books and comments on characters
  • Requests that adults read or write with them
  • May begin to attend to specific print such as letters in name
  • Uses scribble writing for a purpose and begins to use some letter like forms

ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, 1995. Caring for Infants and Toddlers in Groups: Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Washington, D.C.

Snow, Catherine E., M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin, Editors (1998) Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.