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What is early literacy, and why does it matter?

To be literate is to be able to read and write. Similarly, early literacy encompasses all the foundational skills, knowledge, and experiences that prepare a child to become an independent reader. Put another way, if literacy were a tower, early literacy would be all the individual blocks used to build it. 

Research has identified 6 key skills that support a child's reading readiness:

Print motivation – a child’s interest in printed materials, especially as a source of enjoyment

Print awareness – understanding how to hold a book; knowing that text reads from left to right; recognizing that print is everywhere

Phonological awareness – the ability to recognize and play with the sounds that make up words

Vocabulary – knowing a variety of words and what they mean

Letter knowledge – the ability to identify letters and to connect them to sounds in spoken language

Narrative skills – the ability to tell or retell a story or sequence of events; the ability to describe things

These skills are supported by 5 everyday practices:

Reading          Writing           Singing            Talking           Playing

The good news is, you can do these things anytime, and just about anywhere – and they’re probably things you are already doing! Whether it’s singing in the car or telling stories at the dinner table, you are already teaching your child(ren) the skills they need to become future readers. When you begin intentionally integrating these 5 practices into your daily routines, you lay the foundation for independent reading in a way that is natural and meaningful - and fun!  

Supporting Early Literacy at Home

The following links are intended to provide you with additional information and resources for supporting early literacy at home. These are not BCPL-created resources, but you may find them useful. 

Reading Rockets- An all around excellent resource for reading instruction at any age. 

AAP Early Literacy Resource Page - This collection of resources was put together by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Includes links to a variety of websites and handouts related to early literacy.

Center for Early Literacy Learning - Includes guides for reading with children of various ages. 

Every Child Ready to Read Handouts & Activities Saroj Ghoting is one of the researchers behind the Every Child Ready to Read initiative. This page is her collection of early literacy handouts for parents and practitioners.  

How does BCPL support early literacy?

Here at the Bartholomew County Public Library, we believe that literacy begins at birth, and our goal is to support children and caregivers in becoming lifelong learners. We offer several storytimes per week for kids of all ages. We also offer monthly storytimes in French and in Spanish. All of our storytimes include books, songs, and opportunities to play, and many also incorporate crafts or other activities. Around our department, you’ll find a variety of play areas, including a dramatic play station, a puppet theater, a weekly craft table, puzzles, games, storytime kits, and of course, books! We strive to support the 5 practices in everything we do.

The information on this handout is a direct derivative of the Every Child Ready to Read initiative. For more information about ECRR, and about early literacy in general, we encourage you to check out the additional resources linked on this page.

Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® is a program of the Association for Library Service to Children and Public Library Association, divisions of the American Library Association. Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® is a registered trademark and is used with permission.