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Early Childhood Literacy Skills

Learning to read begins BEFORE your child starts school — as a matter of fact, it begins at birth!

There are five early literacy practices that every child needs to get ready to read, listen and write. To learn more about each practice, click on a link below:





(Some information taken from the Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library 2nd EditionToolkit, Sections 1–5)


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

  • Talking, telling stories and stretching conversations help children learn new words, learn to express themselves and learn how to have a conversation.

  • Infants and young children need to hear the language (or languages) they will eventually speak in order to learn it — so if you speak two languages at home, it is beneficial to speak both languages to your child.

  • Talking to your child in the language you are most fluent in is the best way to help your child develop early literacy skills.

  • Very young children can understand spoken words long before they can speak any of them — so talk to them and you will be amazed at how your child responds.

  • Talking to your child about many different events, ideas and stories helps them develop the general knowledge they need to understand the content of what they will read in books when they are older.

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  • Writing and reading go together! Both are ways to represent spoken words and to communicate information.

  • Scribbling and drawing are forms of writing — they may not be words, but the lines and pictures your child draws mean something to them.

  • Scribbling and drawing help children develop eye-hand coordination and the fine motor control they need to hold a pencil.

  • As children write, they become aware that the printed letters and words have meaning. They begin to understand the purpose of reading through the process of writing.

  • Writing doesn't always have to be writing — it can be tracing in sand, playing with clay or play dough, or crinkling up newspaper to help strengthen finger muscles!

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  • Reading together remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers.

  • Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

  • Reading together develops vocabulary, comprehension, and general knowledge needed to understand other books and stories when they are older.

  • Reading introduces children to "rare" words that they may not hear in everyday conversation.

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  • Play is one of the primary ways young children learn about how the world works and learn language.

  • Play helps children practice putting their thoughts into words.

  • Play helps children think symbolically — that this item stands for this thing ("This box is a rocket ship!"), which helps them understand that words can stand for real objects or experiences.

  • Play is how children practice becoming adults and process what they see and hear everyday.

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  • Singing helps children learn new words.

  • Singing slows down language so children can hear the different sounds in words and learn about syllables.

  • Singing together is a fun bonding experience with your child — whether you're a good singer or not!

  • Singing develops listening and memory skills and makes repetition easier for young children — it's easier to remember a short song than a short story.

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