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Early Literacy: 5 Raise a Reader Skills

We begin to read at an early age and our parents are our first teachers. Here are some great books and materials you can use to support your child's early literacy skills.


Talking with children helps develop oral language. Including your children in conversations and letting them listen helps to teach them about language. They will develop understanding, comprehension, and vocabulary.

  • Hold conversations with your children. Even if they haven't started using recognizable words, you're teaching them how a conversation works. Reply to their babbles. If they are starting to use words, repeat their words back to them in longer sentences. "Ball." "Would you like the ball?"
  • Ask open-ended questions. This gives children an opportunity to say more than "yes" or "no" and to express themselves.
  • Games like "I Spy" "20 Questions" and "Guess Who" encourage children to ask questions and use descriptive language to express their meaning and ideas.


Singing develops language skills by slowing down our words and phrases to help children hear the different sounds. The rhyme, rhythm, and simplicity makes it easy for kids to learn new words and information.

  • Sing songs with animal sounds to help your child hear different kinds of sounds in language.
  • Songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and other songs that label objects help teach children new vocabulary.
  • Rhyming, in nursery rhymes and songs, helps children hear smaller parts of words.

If you have trouble remembering songs, you aren't alone. You can check youtube for some of your old favorites or find some new songs. OR check out any of our Children's Music CDs at the Alvin Sherman Library.


Reading to our children encourages a love of and familiarity with books as well as helping to develop vocabulary and comprehension.

  • Let children see you read - seeing a parent or authority figure read let's children know that this is a normal behavior.
  • Read with your children - this bonding time associates reading with happy times, encouraging interest and enjoyment in books.
  • Let children hold the book and turn the pages themselves, explain the parts of a book, like the title and pictures. This helps teach them how a book works and how to handle it themselves.
  • Point out words both in and out of books, such as in signs and on labels - this helps children realize that print is all around us.


Playing helps teach children how to put their thoughts into words and talk about what they are doing.

  • Encourage your children to talk about what they do when they play - this helps them learn how to describe things and events.
  • Play make-believe games to act out real life situations, work through fears, and use their imagination to solve problems.
  • Pretend play, like pretending a box is really a space shuttle, teaches children to think symbolically and develop oral language skills.
  • Make stick puppets or use stuffed animals to re-tell stories to teach them about how things happen in order - first, next, last.


Writing helps children become aware that printed letters stand for spoken words as they see print used in their daily lives.

  • Give children opportunities to grasp and pinch small objects. This helps them learn how to use their fingers to hold pencils and crayons later.
  • Let children scribble. Scribbling helps to develop the motor functions required to start making shapes, letters, and numbers as we know them.
  • Encourage children to draw. This is another form of expression that uses many of the same skills as writing.
  • Be an example by writing lists and notes so your child can see. We are our children's first and best teachers, so if we show them what writing looks like, they can mirror that behavior.