According to Every Child Ready to Read, there are five major practices for early literacy: read, write, talk, sing, and play. These are the building blocks for learning to read. Along with these practices, there are five components of early literacy: phonological awareness, vocabulary, print awareness, letter knowledge, and background knowledge. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and play with the smaller sounds of words. Vocabulary is knowing the meanings of words and learning new words. Print awareness is the knowledge that print has meaning, how to handle a book, and the parts of a book (i.e., author, illustrator). Letter knowledge is understanding that letters have names and represent sounds, and that a letter can look different. Finally, background knowledge includes what children already know that can help them decode the story. Background knowledge includes concepts (seasons, shapes, colors, etc.), and content knowledge (clues in the book for what’s happening and what might happen next).

Here are ways parents and caregivers can support early literacy for young children with these practices:

Shared reading is the single most important activity to help children get ready to read.
– Share books with rhyme, rhythm and alliteration (phonological awareness)
– Share informational (non-fiction) books (vocabulary and background knowledge)
– Point to the title, words, or repeated phrases when sharing a book (print awareness)
– Share alphabet books (letter knowledge)
– Relate what is happening in the text to the child’s experiences (background knowledge)

Book Recommendations:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn
Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed by Eileen Christelow
The Library Fish Learns to Read by Alyssa Capucilli
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander
Llama Llama Loves to Read by Anna Dewdney
How Do Dinosaurs Learn to Read? by Jane Yolen

Reading and writing represent spoken language. Learning to write begins with fine and gross motor skills. Think: play-doh, painting, coloring, etc.
– Write the child’s name and point out the sound of the first letter (phonological awareness)
– Ask the child to draw a picture and tell you about it (vocabulary)
– Have the child help you make lists for the grocery store (print awareness)
– Provide materials for scribbling or drawing so the child can mimic you writing (letter knowledge)
– Describe opposites, objects of different sizes or color (background knowledge)

Book Recommendations:
LMNOPeas by Keith Baker
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills
-The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
A to Z by Sandra Boynton
-How to Write a Poem by Kwame Alexander

Talking with your child encourages communication. Narrating what you’re doing for young children and asking open ended questions helps develop this back and forth.
– Most parents naturally adopt a sing song voice (parentese) when talking to their children. This slows down spoken language. (phonological awareness)
– Share nursery rhymes (phonological awareness)
-Talk about concepts such as colors, shapes, size, and texture (vocabulary)
-Point out signs, logos, labels (print awareness)
-Point out letters you see while on a walk (letter knowledge)
– Discuss the sequence of events while doing things like cooking or making an art project to later help sequencing a story (background knowledge)
– Ask children to predict what will happen next when reading (background knowledge)

Book Recommendations:
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr
If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

There is a reason we naturally sing to young children: Singing slows down speech so that children can hear smaller sounds in words. Often, songs introduce new words to children, too.
– Clap the syllables to different words (phonological awareness)
– Songs contain words we don’t use everyday. Think of “fetch” in Jack and Jill went up the hill. (vocabulary)
– When sharing a book of nursery rhymes, point to the words. (print awareness)
– Sing the ABCs. (Letter knowledge)
– Sing various sequences. For example: “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands. This is the way we wash our hands so early in the morning.” (background knowledge)
– Many songs include counting or numbers. (background knowledge)

Book Recommendations:
If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberly
Five Little Ducks by Penny Ives
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin
The Wheels on the Bus by Annie Kubler
Over in the Meadow by John Langstaff

Play is important for early childhood, especially for language development. Provide plenty of opportunities for free play and dramatic play.
– Keep books on hand for children to explore freely (phonological awareness and print awareness)
– As young children play, describe the object (texture, color, shape). (vocabulary)
– Point out letters on blocks (letter knowledge)
– Include magnet letters, foam letters, or blocks in play (letter knowledge)
– Play matching and sorting games (background knowledge)

Book Recommendations:
We All Play by Julie Flett
-Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter
Clip Clop by Nicola Smee