Early Learning

What is Early Literacy?

Early Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write.
Research shows that children get ready to read years before they start school. You can help your child learn important skills now so they can become good readers.

Why parents are so important in helping their children get ready to read?

  • You know your child best.
  • Children learn best when they are in a good mood, and you know their moods best.
  • You can help your children learn reading skills in ways that are easiest for them.
  • Children learn best by doing things---and they love doing things with you!
    Take every chance you have to read with your children, tell and talk about stories, say nursery rhymes and sing songs.

What can I do to help?

According to research, there are six pre-reading skills that children must learn in order to learn to read. Activities you do to support each of these skills will change as your child grows.

The six skills are:

  • Narrative Skills: Being able to describe things and events and tell stories.
  • Print Motivation: Being interested in and enjoying books
  • Phonological Awareness: Being able to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words.
  • Letter Knowledge: Knowing letters are different from each other, knowing their names and sounds and recognizing letters everywhere.
  • Print Awareness: Noticing print, knowing how to handle a book and knowing how to follow the words on a page.

Select your child's age group for specific ways that you
can help to raise a reader:

Sharing Books with Babies (Birth to 24 Months)

How to Read to a Baby:

  • Look for books with clear and simple pictures.
  • Choose a good time to read when you and your child are relaxed and happy.
  • Point to pictures. Talk about them in an excited voice.
  • Notice what your baby looks at and then talk about it.
  • It's natural for babies to play with books, even chew or tear them.
  • Stop for a while if your baby loses interest or gets upset. A few enjoyable minutes at a time is better than a longer unhappy time together.
  • While you read, make your baby feel loved and special.
  • Share books with your baby every day. Even a few minutes are important.

What Babies Like in Books:

  • Board books with photos of babies.
  • Books with bold, clear pictures of familiar items.
  • Books with rhythm and repetition.
  • Books with texture or touch and feel books.
  • Books with animal sounds.

Recommended Books for Your Baby:

  • 1, 2, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines
  • Babies on the Go by Linda Ashman
  • Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont
  • Black & White by Tana Hoban
  • Duckie's Ducklings by Frances Barry
  • A Good Day by Kevin Henkes
  • Here Comes Mother Goose by Iona Opie
  • Hush, Little Baby by Brian Pinkney
  • Look at the Animals by Peter Linenthal
  • My Car by Byron Barton
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
  • This Little Piggy by Jane Yolen
  • A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa by Jonathan London
  • What Shall We Do with the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell
  • Whose Chick Are You? by Nancy Tafuri

Sharing Books with Toddlers (Two- and Three-Year-Olds)

How to Read to Your Toddler:

  • Choose a book that your child already knows well.
  • Ask "what" questions ("What's this?" and point to a picture.)
  • Repeat what your child says and expand on it.
  • Help your child as needed. Praise and encourage your child.
  • Ask open-ended questions ("What do you think is going on here?")
  • Expand on what your child says. Add another piece of information.
  • Help your child repeat the longer phrases.

What Toddlers Like in Books:

  • Small books to fit small hands.
  • Books with simple rhymes.
  • Books with familiar items and routines.
  • Lift-the-flap books
  • Books with few words or repeating words

Recommended Books for Your Toddler:

  • Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
  • Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
  • Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
  • Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
  • Ruby's Falling Leaves by Rosemary Wells
  • Bunny and Me by Adele Greenspun and Joanie Schwarz
  • Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse and Barbara Lavallee
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram
  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough


Sharing Books with Preschoolers (Four- and Five-Year-Olds)
How to Read to a Preschooler:

  • Read a book together that your child already knows. Switch what you do. You be the
    listener and let your child tell you the story.
  • Help your child relate what is happening in the story to his own experiences.
  • Let your child hold the book and turn the pages.
  • Write words that interest your child using crayons, magnetic letters or pencil and paper.
  • Put two word chunks together to make a word ("What word would we have if we put 'cow' and 'boy' together?")
  • Read some poetry together. Make up short poems and say the words that rhyme.

What Preschoolers Like in Books:

  • Books that tell stories
  • Books that make them laugh
  • Simple text they can memorize
  • Books about kids that are like them and kids that are different than them.
  • Books about going to school and making friends.
  • Alphabet books, counting books and vocabulary books.
  • Books about the real world.

Recommended Books for Your Preschooler:

  • Bark, George by Jules Feiffer
  • Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
  • Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough
  • Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
  • Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
  • Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • The Wolf's Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood
  • The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Don Wood

The Early Literacy Initiative, a partnership among the Public Library Association, The Association for Library Service to Children and The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

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