As a children’s librarian, a large part of my job involves not only encouraging children to read, but helping to provide an education in literacy that will extend into the home, as well. The first time a child is exposed to literacy skills should not be when children enter preschool or Kindergarten, but as infants and toddlers. Libraries are great places for fostering early reading skills in young ones through planned story times, but it is important for parents and caregivers to teach these skills at home, as well. Studies show that children who learn early literacy skills from infancy are much more likely to succeed when they begin school.
Tips For Developing Early Literacy Skills for Babies and Toddlers
For parents and caregivers, there are simple ways to help your children develop literacy skills. It’s not just about reading, but HOW you read to them. There are six skills you can learn to incorporate into your story times at home: print motivation, print awareness, vocabulary, letter knowledge, narrative skills, and phonological awareness. These early literacy skills for babies and toddlers may sound complicated but they’re really not! Let’s break it down and you’ll see how easy it is to get your children ready for school.
Print Motivation: Being interested in, and enjoying, books.
- Let your child choose the books he/she wants to read
- Make it fun, and when your child gets tired of reading, take a break! They’ll have positive associations with reading if they’re having fun.
- Choose books that you enjoy reading, because when your child sees you enjoying it, it will be more enjoyable for them as well.
- Put out a pile of board books and let the kids pick them up, open them, and explore. Take note of which books your child is drawn to and then ask questions about the book they are holding, pointing out letters and pictures, and encouraging interaction around the book.
Print Awareness: Knowing that print is everywhere and that it has meaning, and understanding how to handle a book.
- Point to words on the page to show they have meaning
- Let your child get acquainted with the construction of a book, how it is oriented, how the pages turn, and how you read from left to write
- Turn a book upside down and ask the children if that is how to read a book.
- Use words like front and back, upside down and right side up.
- Have the children pick up books and practice holding them the right way.
Letter Knowledge: Knowing that the same letter can look different, that letters have names and are related to sounds.
- Talk about the first letter of your child’s name, then find that letter in a book. Talk about what sound it makes, and the different words it is found in.
Vocabulary: Understanding that everything has a name. The more vocabulary a child has, the better prepared they are to read.
- Have your child talk about a particular illustration in a book. Ask questions that allow your child to use as many words as possible, instead of “yes” or “no”.
Phonological Awareness: The ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words.
- Play an “I Spy” game with your child. Look at the pictures in a book and play “I Spy” using rhyming words and sounds.
Narrative Skills: The ability to describe things, to tell events in order, and to retell stories.
- Read a book to your child and then ask them to retell it to you. Help them along by asking questions about what happens next and helping them with the order of events.
Books For Babies and Toddlers- Reading Suggestions
Below are just a few great books that will help your children get excited about reading!
Teaching early literacy skills for babies and toddlers doesn’t have to be complicated, and is actually a lot of fun! Do you have favorite activities for children’s story time? Share in the comments!