Five Early Literacy Practices for Caregivers

Research shows that children get ready to read years before they start school. Help your child get ready to read by talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. These activities help to develop pre-reading skills.


Cartoon graphic of child looking at a book and the word Talking

Talking with children is one of the best ways to help them learn new words.

What You Can Do:

  • Look at family photos and TALK about what is happening in the picture.
  • As you are playing with your child, TALK about words that may be unfamiliar by giving a simple definition. Don’t replace words that they may not understand, just explain them.
  • When grocery shopping, TALK about the fruits and vegetables (color, shape, texture, use).
  • Blowing bubbles is a great way to strengthen the small muscles in your child's mouth that are important for TALKING.
  • Stay silent after asking a question, so the child may TALK back.

Cartoon graphic of child looking at a book and the word Reading

Reading together is the single most important way to help children get ready to read.

What You Can Do:

  • After you read a story together a few times, let your child “READ” it to you.
  • Encourage your child to draw some of the stories you have READ together.
  • Look at wordless books together and let your child tell you the story.
  • Come and READ to one of our wonderful therapy READogs.
  • Find a cozy place in your house for books. READ in this place every day.
  • READ non-fiction books together as well as fiction.
  • Point out letters and words everywhere you go. Road signs, menus, store fronts, etc.

Cartoon graphic of child looking at a book and the word Playing

Playing helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically. So that they understand that spoken words can stand for real objects and experiences.

What You Can Do:

  • PLAY “Doctor’s office,” ”Restaurant” or “Fire Station”
  • PLAY Super Heroes, Knights and Princesses.
  • Pretend to be an animal.
  • Let children use their imagination to create props and PLAY areas.
  • Use puppets or finger PLAYS to tell or sing a story.
  • Label objects around the house with index cards.

Cartoon graphic of child looking at a book and the word Singing



Songs are a natural way for children to learn about language.

What You Can Do:

  • Clapping along to rhythms helps children hear the syllables in words and helps them practice motor skills.
  • SING songs or fingerplays fast, slow, loud, quiet and over and over.
  • SING songs with rhyming words, silly words and long, stretched out words.
  • At the library, check out CDs to SING in the car and at home.
  • Wake your child with a ‘Good Morning’ song every day.
  • Fill a plastic water bottle with cereal or use a pie-tin and wooden spoon to make percussion instruments.

Cartoon graphic of child looking at a book and the word Writing



Writing and reading go together. Scribbling and writing help children learn that written words stand for spoken language.

What You Can Do:

  • Encourage children to play with print every day. Help them WRITE or scribble lists, notes and signs, etc.
  • Make sure your child sees you WRITING lists and letters.
  • Read books with large bold print. Sometimes run your finger under the words as you move them across the page.
  • Make letters out of clay or play-doh, WRITE in sand, and draw letters with sidewalk chalk.
  • Cut up straws and use the pieces to form letters. Try using cereal, noodles, marshmallows etc. to WRITE with.
  • Make dot to dot letters then have your child trace them.
  • Practice WRITING letters with shaving cream.
  • Using lacing cards and stringing beads helps to develop fine motor skills, necessary for WRITING.
  • The most important letter to a child is the first letter of his or her name. Look for that letter and point it out each time you find it.