Skip to content Skip to navigation

Play Grow Read

Early Literacy Tips and Tricks

It’s Never Too Early to Get Ready to Read

Children’s reading success in kindergarten and beyond begins with positive language and literacy experiences from the time they are infants. As an involved adult, you can help children acquire a strong foundation in early literacy by talking, singing, reading, writing and playing with them.

These five practices are easy to do with children of all ages. They can be done at home, at the doctor’s office, in the car, or anywhere you and your child spend time together.

Source: Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition- American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association  

Make Each Day a Learning Day

Get weekly early literacy tips from our librarians delivered right to your phone. Text @0to5tips to 81010 and reply with your name or alias to join! If 81010 doesn't work for you, try 972-200-3613. Reply to an early literacy tip message with "STOP" to unsubscribe.
 

Talk

Children learn about language by listening to parents and caregivers talk and joining the conversation.
 

Talk with Your Child Today

Babies

  • When you share a book with your baby and talk about the pictures, pause to give your baby time to babble back. It may take a while for your baby to respond. Being able to retell stories, narrative skills begin with babbling!
  • Young children like to examine objects. Talking about how the object feels, its colors, how heavy it is, sounds it makes and what it does all help children later when they try to match or sort items.
  • Children love being able to identify animals and to imitate the sounds they make. Even babies who are not talking yet can make a cow sound: Mmmmmmmmmooooo. Check out board books or sound recordings from the library on animals.

Sources:

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards               .

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

Toddlers

  • Talk about the book. Say, “Where’s the kitty?” and “What sound does a kitty make?” Ask your toddler to point to the kitty in the picture.
  • While reading, children may ask questions like, “What’s that?” Say the word, ask them to try to say the word. Then make sure to add information to what he/she says. 
  • Young children like to examine objects. Talking about how the object feels, its colors, how heavy it is, sounds it makes and what it does all help children later when they try to match or sort items. Observation is the beginning of scientific thinking.

Sources:

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards               .

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

Preschoolers

  • Read a book from start to finish, feeling the rhythm of the text and noticing the sequence between each action. Read it again but also talk about what is happening in the pictures. This way of sharing helps your child to develop vocabulary and narrative skills which is being able to describe things and events and to tell a story.
  • When children ask questions like, “What’s that?” Say the word, ask them to try to say the word. Then make sure to add information to what he/she says. 
  • After you read a story, ask your child how they would feel in the same situation or how they think the characters are feeling.
  • Make a list of what you are going to do during the day. At the end of the day, go back through the list and talk about what you did.
  • Young children like to examine objects. Talking about how the object feels, its colors, how heavy it is, sounds it makes and what it does all help children later when they try to match or sort items. Observation is the beginning of scientific thinking.

Sources:

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards               .

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

Sing

Incorporating music into your child’s daily life is yet another easy way to get them ready to read.
 

Sing with Your Child Today

Babies

  • Play musical recordings or instruments for your child. Give your baby a rattle or jingle bell to play along! Not only does music help children feel safe and ready to learn, it also develops spatial-temporal reasoning and higher-level cognitive abilities, such as using imagination, tolerating ambiguity, and understanding differing concepts.
  • Look for board books that are adapted from a popular nursery rhyme or song and sing the book to your baby. Your librarian is happy to help you find some great titles!
  • Clap or tap on your baby’s palm while singing or saying a rhyme – one syllable per tap! This self-regulated movement increases focused learning, develops motor skills, and improves memory.

Sources: 

Bintrim, L. 2014. “Reading to the beat. Music and early literacy skills.” Upstart. Retrieved from http://upstartpromotions.com/upstart/pdf/upstart/el_articles/Reading_to_the_Beat.pdf?sp_rid=NTMxMjM5OTkxNTIS1&sp_mid=46307385

Eisner, E. W. 2002. Arts and the Creation of the Mind.  Yale University Press.  New Haven, CT.

Paquette, K. R. & Rieg, S. 2008. “Using Music to Support the Literacy Development of Young English Language Learners.”  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3): 227–232.

Toddlers

  • Sing nursery rhymes with your child and teach new songs often. Singing helps children break down the sounds of words and increases vocabulary in a fun way.
  • Throw a dance party! Moving to music and rhythm is an excellent way for your young child to build motor skills.
  • Sing words and sentences slowly to your child. This breaks sentences apart and helps your child decode the small sounds in words and syllables.

Sources: 

Bintrim, L. 2014. “Reading to the beat. Music and early literacy skills.” Upstart. Retrieved from http://upstartpromotions.com/upstart/pdf/upstart/el_articles/Reading_to_the_Beat.pdf?sp_rid=NTMxMjM5OTkxNTIS1&sp_mid=46307385

Eisner, E. W. 2002. Arts and the Creation of the Mind.  Yale University Press.  New Haven, CT.

Paquette, K. R. & Rieg, S. 2008. “Using Music to Support the Literacy Development of Young English Language Learners.”  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3): 227–232.

Preschoolers

  • Choose books with repeated rhythms or singable portions and ask your child to sing with you. This will make your story times memorable and help your child associate a positive feeling with books and reading.
  • Use songs or chants to help your child transition through their day. Having a song for clean-up time, dinner time, bath time and more will increase your child’s vocabulary, add more stability and security to their day, and help you get the job done faster.  
  • Incorporate hand gestures and facial expressions with your songs to help your child comprehend the meanings behind the words and phrases.

Sources: 

Bintrim, L. 2014. “Reading to the beat. Music and early literacy skills.” Upstart. Retrieved from http://upstartpromotions.com/upstart/pdf/upstart/el_articles/Reading_to_the_Beat.pdf?sp_rid=NTMxMjM5OTkxNTIS1&sp_mid=46307385

Eisner, E. W. 2002. Arts and the Creation of the Mind.  Yale University Press.  New Haven, CT.

Paquette, K. R. & Rieg, S. 2008. “Using Music to Support the Literacy Development of Young English Language Learners.”  Early Childhood Education Journal, 36(3): 227–232.

Play

Playing helps children develop narrative skills, motor skills, and cognitive abilities such as logistical thinking and imagination.

Play with Your Child Today

Babies

  • Try out these toys with your baby: rattles, mirrors, squeaky toys, grasping and mouthing toys, small baseball-sized balls, blocks and stacking toys, shape sorting toys, and simple puzzles with 2 to 3 pieces.
  • Use scarves or streamers to float above your baby’s head and even let them land over his or her face for a moment before pulling them up and away again.
  • Blow bubbles around your baby’s face, letting a few land. Watch your baby’s delight when they pop!
  • Play Peek-a-Boo! This helps babies learn object permanence and will get them laughing – especially when an unexpected object peeks back out at them where it wasn’t before.

Sources:

Bongiorno, L. “10 things every parent should know about play.” NAEYC For Families. Retrieved from http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. 2012. “Assessment and scaffolding: Make believe play.” Young Children. NAEYC. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201201/Leong_Make_Believe_Play_Jan2012.pdf

“Kids Health. Safe exploring for toddlers”. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/learning/exploring.html

Toddlers

  • Play with blocks! You can help your child start by stacking a few yourself, but just let your child go and see what they build.
  • Encourage imaginative play. Playing house, pretending to buy groceries, or just playing in an empty box are great ways for children to build their imaginations, increase narrative and storytelling skills, as well as think through possible scenarios before they arise.
  • Roll a ball back and forth with your toddler. This will help build hand-eye coordination and muscle strength.

Sources:

Bongiorno, L. “10 things every parent should know about play.” NAEYC For Families. Retrieved from http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. 2012. “Assessment and scaffolding: Make believe play.” Young Children. NAEYC. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201201/Leong_Make_Believe_Play_Jan2012.pdf

“Kids Health. Safe exploring for toddlers”. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/learning/exploring.html

Preschoolers

  • Enhance the play by engaging and asking questions. Children are natural players but caregivers can help children get even more out of play by asking questions and extending the story and by introducing new obstacles or problems for your child to solve. And children agree – playing is more fun with a friend!
  • Play I Spy games giving detailed clues. This can introduce new vocabulary slowly and keeps your child actively learning.
  • Provide many opportunities for play with letters and numbers. Keep magnetic letters on your refrigerator, label objects around the home, or play seek and find games with letters and numbers around your child.

Sources:

Bongiorno, L. “10 things every parent should know about play.” NAEYC For Families. Retrieved from http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/10-things-every-parent-should-know-about-play

Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. 2012. “Assessment and scaffolding: Make believe play.” Young Children. NAEYC. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201201/Leong_Make_Believe_Play_Jan2012.pdf

“Kids Health. Safe exploring for toddlers”. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/learning/exploring.html

Read

Reading together with children is the single most important way to help them get ready to read. Allow children to observe you reading.

Read with Your Child Today

Babies

  • Read to your baby from birth. Read several times throughout the day, even if it is only for a few minutes.
  • Read or recite nursery rhymes. Use some of the Story time Songs and Fingerplays at home. Hearing these rhymes and patterns in sounds helps to trigger speech. Check out books with nursery rhymes from the library.
  • Babies love to look at faces. By four or five months, they are able to distinguish between different expressions on faces such as anger, boredom and happiness. Being able to distinguish similarities and differences in facial expressions will help them to later interpret how people are feeling. Check out board books from the library with different faces of babies or people.
  • When you are at various places around town, point to the words on the signs everywhere and read them to your baby.

Sources:         

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

The Very Ready to Read Program:  Birth-24 months. Madison, WI: Upstart.

Toddlers

  • Read often but keep book sharing time a positive experience. If you child is not in the mood to read, close the book and try again later.
  • When you read a book, run your finger under the text. Children may not notice the print unless you point it out. 
  • When you read together, label the names of the objects that you see in the book. Ask your child to repeat the names of unfamiliar pictures of objects after you have said them.
  • While reading, have your child say a repeated phrase and/or make a motion with you throughout the book.

Sources:         

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

The Very Ready to Read Program:  Birth-24 months. Madison, WI: Upstart.

Preschoolers

  • When you read a book, run your finger under the text. Children will probably not notice the print unless you point it out. 
  • After reading a story, have your child tell you what happened.
  • Ask the following questions:

                    What happened first, or what happened at the beginning?

                    How did the story end, or what happened at the end of the book?

                    What do you remember about the story?

  • When you read together, label the names of the objects that you see in the book. Ask your child to repeat the names of unfamiliar pictures of objects after you have said them.
  • While reading, have your child say a repeated phrase and/or make a motion with you throughout the book.
  • Make observations and involve your child. Ask them, what do you think will happen there?”
  • Reading rhyming books helps your child hear parts of words. You can play “I Spy” like this too. I spy with my little eye something that is____. You can play these games with any picture or even as your walk or drive around.

Sources:         

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela. 2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association

The Very Ready to Read Program:  Birth-24 months. Madison, WI: Upstart.

Write

Reading and writing go together. Both are ways to express words and to communicate.
 

Write with Your Child Today

Babies

  • Holding things helps children to coordinate small muscles in their hands and fingers. This is also one of the first steps toward being able to write.
  • Say this simple rhyme making a fist, then using a thumb. Development of fine motor skills also helps prepare children to write.
    • Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin? (Make two fists)
      Here I am. Here I am. (Stick up one thumb and then the other.)
      How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you. (Wiggle one thumb and then the other.)
      Run away. Run away. (Move fists behind one by one.)

  • Say the Pat a Cake nursery rhyme. Trace the first letter in baby’s name on their palm when you recite, “and mark it with a __.”
    • Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man.
      Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
      Pat it and roll it and mark it with B,
      And put it in the oven for baby and me.

Sources:         

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association.

Toddlers

  • Writing (including scribbling) is one way to develop print awareness. Encourage your child to “read” to you what he or she has written. Give them some paper and crayons, markers, pencils, chalk, or they can write in shaving cream and or instant pudding. Scribbling and drawing are the beginning steps to writing.
  • Help them notice the written word by pointing out print all around you, reading street signs, and letting them see you read magazines, books, or mail. When reading, run your finger across or under the words.

Sources:         

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association.

Preschoolers

  • Writing (including scribbling) is one way to develop print awareness. Encourage your child to “read” to you what he or she has written.  Give them some paper and crayons, markers, pencils, chalk, or they can write in shaving cream and or instant pudding. This helps reinforce that writing and print have meaning, which is something children need to know to be ready to read.
  • Help them notice the written word by pointing out print all around you, reading street signs, and letting them see you read magazines, books, or mail. When reading, run your finger across or under the words. More than likely, children will not notice print unless you point it out.
  • Encourage your child to write. Begin by making a list together the next time you plan to go shopping. Doing things like this helps them see the relationship between letters and sounds too. All of this helps them get ready to learn and to read. 
  • Write or draw a message on a piece of paper and see if your child can figure out what it says. The “message” can be in words, pictures, or both - for example, the words I love you and a heart. The child reads the message and then writes a message on a piece of paper. It may be squiggles; that’s fine. The child can read his or her message to you.
  • Read a book with shapes or an alphabet book. Then, draw the shapes or letters in the air with your child.

Sources:         

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy and Saroj Nadkarni. The Early Literacy Kit:  A Handbook and Tip Cards.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2006. Early Literacy Storytimes @ your library:  Partnering with Caregivers for Success. Chicago:  American Library Association.

Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni & Martin-Diaz, Pamela.  2013. Story times for Everyone! Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy.  Chicago:  American Library Association.

 Every Child Ready to Read, Second Edition.  American Library Services to Children & Public Library Association.

More Early Literacy Activities

For more early literacy activities, check out these websites:

Fred Rogers Center Early Learning Environment

Sesame Street

Earlier Is Easier