Early literacy tips

Baby with a book
Toddler with a book
Preschooler with a book

Worthington Libraries helps babies, toddlers and preschoolers get ready to read!

Early literacy is what kids know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write.

You are your child's first teacher and preparing him or her to read can be easy and fun— whether you're at home or on the go!

Five of the best ways to prepare your child to read are talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.

Use this guide to learn more about these five early literacy practices and to get ideas for easy activities that you and your baby, toddler or preschooler can enjoy throughout the day.

revised March 2016

Early literacy tips for babies

Help your baby be ready to read with these simple activities you can do every day, at home or on the go!

Talking

Baby with a book

At home

Talk to your baby as you go about your day even if he can't respond with words yet ("We are making spaghetti for dinner! Yum!"). Encourage, listen, and respond to your baby's chatters and babbles as much as possible to boost language development.

On the go

Talk about what your child is doing wherever you are and describe what she is looking at, touching or playing with: "Do you see the kitty? She looks soft." When you talk with your baby, she is hearing the sounds of the languages you speak and learning what words mean as you point to and label things. Babies babble using the sounds they have heard!

Books

Singing

At home

Sing your baby a lullaby when you tuck him in for the night or make up a song to greet him in the morning. Hearing music and songs help your baby develop awareness of different sounds and exposes him to new vocabulary.

On the go

Sing to your baby as you drive around town. Put your own spin on classic favorites like "The Wheels on the Bus" or "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to help introduce new vocabulary and word sounds.

Books

Reading

At home

Set aside time during your day to read with your baby. Point to pictures and talk about what you are seeing and reading. This will help your child learn how books work, understand that pictures represent real things and encourage a love of books and reading.

On the go

Forgot to put a book in the diaper bag? No problem! Read whatever you see during your day to your child (street signs, grocery store labels or even posters at the doctor's office!) to improve your child's vocabulary when he starts talking.

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Writing

At home

As you play or eat meals together, help your baby develop the muscles in her hands by encouraging her to pick up crackers and cheerios, touch her nose and toes or grab and pick up toys. This will help her little hands get ready to turn pages and hold pencils and crayons.

On the go

Let your child draw in soft substances, such as sandboxes at the park or yogurt at mealtime! Even this simple activity will help strengthen eye-hand coordination, which will help with writing later on.

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Playing

At home

When you're playing with your baby, have fun making noises for different toys, like trucks, baby dolls or animals. Hearing different noises and experiencing various pitches, tones and volumes helps your baby develop the basics of language.

On the go

A simple game of peek-a-boo while grocery shopping can have a big impact. Playing helps babies become aware of their bodies, increases curiosity, develops a sense of humor and creates brain connections for future learning.

Books

revised March 2016

Early literacy tips for toddlers

Help your toddler be ready to read with these simple activities you can do every day, at home or on the go!

Talking

Toddler with a book

At home

Expand on the things your child says. For example, if your child points out a flower, respond with: "Yes, that is a flower. That kind of flower is called a rose. Roses can be red, yellow, white or pink."

On the go

Point out signs, labels and logos as you and your toddler drive or go about your day. Talk about what different signs represent to help make your child aware of words and symbols all around them.

Books

Singing

At home

Clap along to rhythms when you sing or listen to a song. This helps children hear the syllables in words and helps develop motor skills.

On the go

Change the words in a familiar song to make something new. Instead of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," sing about a quiet star or a great big star. Use your voice to help illustrate the new adjective: sing about the quiet star in a quiet voice or the great big star in a very loud voice.

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Reading

At home

Stop before a predictable word or line in a book and ask the child to chime in (this works especially well with rhyming books or those with repetitive text) to help them make new words from words they already know.

On the go

Relate the things that you are doing as you spend the day together to things that happen in your child's favorite books. "We're going to the zoo just like Maisy did in the book you like. What did Maisy do at the zoo? Should we do that too?"

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Writing

At home

Fine motor skill activities, such as doing puzzles or crumpling paper, help strengthen the muscles in your child's hand which prepares him to properly hold pencils, crayons and markers.

On the go

See if you can find the first letter of your child's name on a street sign or at the store. ("This is broccoli. It starts with the letter B, just like your name: Brittany! What else can we find that starts with the letter B?")

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Playing

At home

Play a game of pretend with your child— the sillier, the better! Pretend play helps your child understand the power of language.

On the go

Play a game of "Can you...?" by asking a series of questions like, "Can you jump really high?" or "Can you find something red?" Playing games like this is fun and easy when you're on the go - and helps improve concentration, attention span and memory.

Books

revised March 2016

Early literacy tips for preschoolers

Help your preschooler be ready to read with these simple activities you can do every day, at home or on the go!

Talking

Preschooler with a book

At home

As you are preparing a meal, invite your child to help. Talk about what you are doing, how you are doing it, or the food you are preparing (name, color, texture, taste or where it comes from).

On the go

Engage your child in conversation while in the car. Talk about where you are headed, what you did last time you were there if it's a familiar place, or what new and exciting things you will do if it's somewhere your child has never been.

Books

Singing

At home

Singing is a great way to learn new vocabulary and help children understand sentence structure by slowing the language down. Try to sing songs about everyday routines such as getting dressed, washing hands or making breakfast.

On the go

Keep a CD or playlist of your child's favorite songs in the car. Sing along with them (or sing made-up songs!) to help your child hear syllables, word sounds and new vocabulary.

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Reading

At home

Encourage your child to choose books she is interested in, even if you feel that the story is too long for her attention span or bedtime. Try going on a "picture walk" through the story where you discuss what you see going on in the illustrations; you can even make up your own story about what is happening in the pictures you see.

On the go

Words are all around us! Point out letters or simple words that your child may recognize, such as ones that start with the same letter as his name or easy rhyming words.

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Writing

At home

When coloring or scribbling, encourage your child to write as much as he can about what he is drawing. This will help him understand that written words stand for spoken language.

On the go

While waiting in line or at the doctor's office, do a simple finger play or rhyme that gets her hands moving, like "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" or "Open Them, Shut Them." Moving and stretching her fingers will help her build the fine motor skills she'll need to write and draw.

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Playing

At home

Dress-up is a fun and inexpensive way to introduce your child to storytelling. Provide her with old clothes and other household props to help her act out her favorite stories— or make up her own! Encourage her to think about how a story progresses through the beginning, middle and end.

On the go

Play a game of "I Spy" while in the car. Take this opportunity to work on building your child's vocabulary by picking things he may be unfamiliar with or by using very descriptive language to help him guess the item you see.

Books

revised March 2016