Early Literacy Tips & Practices

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There are a number of things parents and caregivers can do at home to support the development of their child’s early literacy skills. Among them are five simple practices: singing, talking, reading, writing and playing. These practices can easily be integrated into a routine and adapted to suit a child’s individual learning needs. Read on to discover some specific ways to include these early literacy skill building practices into your every day!

Talk – children need to receive and create language to learn it

  • Have two-way conversations with your children – children learn language by listening
  • Respond to what they say and add words to stretch their vocabulary
  • Talk while you prepare meals, do chores, get ready for bed, and while in the car
  • Speak slowly to young children and enunciate – this helps their brains identify sounds
  • Repeat words to strengthen the brain pathways used for language
  • Speak face-to-face when talking to infants – they can match shapes to sounds
  • Don’t talk baby talk – the more complex the sentences a child hears, the more complex sentences they’ll be able to speak

Sing – singing is a great way to learn about language; when we sing, the sounds that make up words become more evident

  • Sing the alphabet and nursery rhymes, listen to recorded music, or clap along to a song to demonstrate syllables
  • If your child’s ability to verbalize or hear makes singing difficult, engage them in other rhythm-building activities like hand clapping, marching, and body swaying to music

Read – share books together

  • Reading together increases vocabulary and is the most important way to help children get ready to read. It increases vocabulary and general knowledge and it helps children understand how print works and how books are put together. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to enjoy reading themselves.
  • Read every day
  • Make reading interactive. Look at the cover and try to guess what the book is about before you begin. Ask the child questions as you read and listen to the answers.
  • Use books to teach new words; as you read, talk about what these words mean
  • Use toys and real objects if you can to illustrate the book. Using real objects to reinforce key ideas while reading benefits all children, particularly children with developmental disabilities
  • Try audiobooks! Check out one of our books on CD or explore our digital collection of audiobooks in OverDrive.

Write – scribble, draw, and make tactile art

  • Encourage scribbling by providing many opportunities to write and draw. Keep crayons and paper on a table where children can return again and again.
  • Get magnetic letters for the refrigerator or make letters from cardboard for children to play with
  • Have them sign their drawings to develop hand-eye coordination and build up their writing muscles. Children also begin to understand that writing represents words
  • Talk about what they draw. Have them make up stories or write captions for their drawings so they make the connection between written and spoken language.

Play – children experience the world through play while developing fine and gross motor skills, cognitive concepts, language, and social skills

  • Play helps children think symbolically so give them plenty of unstructured playtimes
  • Encourage dramatic play with puppets, dolls, or stuffed animals. Making up stories this way develops narrative skills so children understand that stories have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Have your child tell you a story based on the pictures in a book.
  • Create a safe space for play and encourage your child to explore their environment; some children may need extra support when engaging in independent exploration
  • Provide toys that engage many senses – rattles, textured balls, vibrating toys, and colorful blocks