Early Literacy

What is Early Literacy?

Early Literacy is what children know about communication, language, verbal and non-verbal, reading and writing BEFORE they can actually read and write. Early Literacy is NOT the teaching of reading, it is the foundation of learning so children can learn to read.  

There are five components to Early Literacy and five simple practices/activities to pave the way for literacy. Many of these practices are already being done at home; the library is positioned to help put these practices into action in a fun and non-stressful way.

Five Components of Early Literacy₁ 

  1. Phonological Awareness: the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words, beginning with recognizing environmental sounds (dog barking) and progressing to hearing syllables, rhyme and sounds at the beginning of words.
  2. Print Awareness: knowing that print has meaning, and knowing how to handle a book, follow words on a page and recognize environmental print (signs, etc).
  3. Letter Knowledge: knowing that the same letter can look different and that letters have names and represent sounds
  4. Vocabulary: knowing the meanings of words, including words for things, concepts, feelings and ideas
  5. Background Knowledge: prior knowledge, or what a child knows before entering kindergarten from his or her experiences with living and languages, including experiences with stories and books.

Five Early Literacy Practices to put the Components into use:

READ!  WRITE!  TALK!  SING!  PLAY!

The library’s storytimes are a great way to practice early literacy skills! See our schedule here

Literacy Tips by Age²

What are some early literacy tips for my pre- or early talker (newborns to two-year-old)?

  • Talk, talk, talk to your baby
  • listen to your baby and answer their babbles
  • read to your baby every day
  • point to the pictures and name the objects
  • teach your child nursery rhymes
  • sing lots of songs and use actions with the songs
  • play word games that involve rhyming – even silly rhymes
  • Talk about their name and break down the syllables of their name
  • let them play with books even if they only mouth them
  • point to some words as you read them
  • read their favorite books again and again
  • read books with words they may not know – don’t skip these words
  • read some simple non-fiction books
  • show your child the differences between shapes
  • talk about things that are the same and different
  • narrate your day and activities
  • check out books from the library – don’t know what to choose? Ask us or request a Book Bundle.

What are some early literacy tips for my talker (two- and three-year-old)?

  • talk to your child constantly, narrate your day and activities
  • add vocabulary to your child’s sentences, elaborate on what they say
  • read together every day
  • read some simple non-fiction books
  • make reading a very special activity between the two of you
  • read your own books where your child can see you
  • read the print that surrounds us every day and point it out to your child
  • point to the words as you read a book together
  • ask your child to hold the book and turn the pages
  • see if your child turns an upside-down book right side up
  • tell stories
  • ask your child to tell you stories (it could be about what they did today)
  • repeat their favorite stories as much as they want
  • ask your child to “read” a favorite book to you
  • teach your child nursery rhymes
  • sing lots of songs and use actions with the songs
  • play word games that involve rhyming etc.
  • show your child the differences between shapes
  • read simple alphabet books
  • talk about things that are the same and different
  • show your child his/her name especially the first letter
  • play with clay, playdough or magnetic letters 
  • ask open-ended questions
  • follow their answers with more questions
  • repeat and expand your child’s answers
  • check out books from the library – don’t know what to choose? Ask us or request a Book Bundle.

What are some early literacy tips for my pre-reader (three- to five-year-old)?

  • talk to your child constantly
  • add vocabulary to your child’s sentences
  • read together every day
  • read some non-fiction together 
  • make reading a very special activity between the two of you
  • read your own books where your child can see you
  • read the print that surrounds us every day
  • point to the words that you read
  • ask your child to hold the book and turn the pages 
  • see if your child turns an upside-down book right side up 
  • tell stories to your child
  • ask your child to tell you stories (it could be about what they did today)
  • ask your child to tell a favorite book to you
  • ask open-ended questions about the book
  • add to your child’s sentences
  • say rhymes and read poetry together
  • sing lots of songs
  • play word games that involve rhyming, compound words etc
  • show your child the differences between letters
  • read alphabet books
  • write out your child’s name
  • ask your child to tell you a story and write down what they say
  • ask your child to draw you a picture and describe it, write what they say
  • play with clay, playdough or magnetic letters
  • point out letters around you everyday
  • write out your child’s favorite words
  • check out books from the library – don’t know what to choose? Ask us or request a Book Bundle.

²From Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library, a research project collaborated on by the Public Library Association, the Association for Library Service to Children, and the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

Where can I find more early literacy information?

Zero to Three

Saroj Ghoting | Early Childhood Literacy Consultant

Every Child Read to Read

Learning at Home: 9 Early Literacy Activities

Reading Rockets: Early Literacy Development

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The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

— Neil Gaiman, Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming