Early Literacy Tips

There are 5 early literacy practices. If you engage in these 5 activities with your child, you’ll help them be ready to read when they enter school! 

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  1. Read
    • Let your child handle books. Children need to be aware of how books work – which way to hold them, how to turn pages, and reading from left to right – as they get ready to read. Afraid of torn pages? Get board books for your little ones to play with. We have an extensive collection of them at the library.
    • As you’re reading with your child, point out specific letters on the pages. This will help your child make the connection between letters and words and then words and books.
    • Reading to your kids now is one of the biggest things you can do to set them up for future academic success. Try to set aside time to read to your little one every day
    • For little ones, reading is fun! It’s bonding time with their loved one. Make sure to keep reading fun. Don’t use it as a punishment and when your little one is ready to be done reading for the day, respect their wish.
    • Rhyming books and books that include songs and nursery rhymes help kids build phonological awareness – the understanding of the separate sounds in each word. This helps them know how to “sound words out” once they start reading on their own.
    • As you’re reading, ask your child questions about the story. You can ask them to try and complete a sentence, ask them if they remember what happens in a story they’ve read before, ask open ended questions like “what is happening in a picture?”, ask what, where, when, why, and how questions, and you can ask questions that relate the story to things you and your child have done together. After your child answers their question, reaffirm their answer and expand on it. Reading in this way is called dialogic reading and can help with reading engagement and comprehension. 
  2. Write
    • Scribbling counts! Encourage your child to make marks on paper, even at an early age when they’re mostly just scribbling. Writing is a way people communicate – just like reading! Building the foundational skills for writing is also helping to build reading skills.
    • When you are writing things down, such as a to-do list or a grocery list, narrate what you’re doing to your child. This will help build their vocabulary and modeling this behavior will encourage them to write as well.
    • Get tactile. Kids can write and draw in ways other than using crayons on paper. Try finger paints, writing in shaving cream, using a stick to write in sand, or drawing in the condensation on a window.
    • Draw different shapes with your child and point out how some of them are similar to letters – a triangle looks like an “A” and a circle looks like an “O”. All letters are based on shapes and pointing this out helps build up your child’s knowledge of letters.
    • On a sunny day, pull out the sidewalk chalk! Chalk is a great way to combine writing with playing and show children that they can use their words and drawings to communicate to the world around them.
    • When your child draws a picture, encourage them to tell you what the picture is about and what is happening in the picture. This helps build their narrative skills. 
  3. Talk
    • Baby babbles are the building blocks of their language. When your baby babbles at you, they’re talking to you and love if you talk back!
    • If kids have bigger vocabularies before they start to read, they will more easily recognize words when they see them in print for the first time . It’s hard to read a word that you’ve never heard before! Try to introduce your children to new words when doing new activities or by switching up the words you use at home.
    • Slow down the way you talk, stretch words out, and play rhyming games to help your little one hear words in new ways.
    • Talk to your child about the print that is in the world around them. Tell your child what different signs say, what the signs mean, and why signs are important when you’re out and about.
    • Talk to your child about your life. Tell them stories about things that have happened to you. This will help them learn how to tell their own stories and help build their background knowledge to understand new ideas later on.
    • Ask your child questions about the books you read together. Starting a conversation about books helps children relate the books to their own lives and gets them excited about reading.
  4. Sing
    • When we sing songs, we say words in a different way than when we talk. Saying words in different ways helps children build phonological awareness, the skill that helps them sound out words later on.
    • Bounce your baby as you sing them a nursery rhyme. This helps them feel the natural rhythm of songs and words.
    • Look for small opportunities to sing throughout the day. Having a special song to sing while changing diapers or waiting at a red light is an easy way to incorporate it daily. And little ones like to hear their loved ones singing – even if they’re not “good” at it!
    • Common childhood songs, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” are also stories. As children learn these songs, they become storytellers!
    • Combine reading and singing by choosing books that can be sung. You can also investigate songs that are written about books – singer/ songwriter Emily Arrow has a discography full of songs written about picture books!
    • Clap or drum out different words to help your child hear the word and its syllables in different ways. 
  5. Play
    • Incorporate characters and plots from your child’s favorite stories into dramatic play. Acting out different stories will help your child with their narrative skills and increase their interest in new stories because they lead to new play opportunities.
    • Use writing in children’s play props – such as maps, menus, and shopping lists. Props like this will help children understand that writing exists everywhere in the world around them.
    • You can expand your child’s vocabulary during play. For example, if you’re playing restaurant you can introduce them to the names of food they might not have heard before.
    • Children learn through play and they learn best when they feel safe, happy, and loved. You can do small things with your child like playing peek-a-boo, turning kleenex boxes into building blocks, and exploring the park – each of these things becomes a new learning and bonding experience for the two of you.
    • Some games incorporate print in a way that helps kids with literacy skills like bingo, matching/ memory games, go fish, and more!
    • Playing with bubbles helps children with their hand-eye coordination. These skills are important when children learn to read and write.