Reading logs. Computer reading software programs. Prizes. Rewards. Hooked on Phonics. Library programs. Activities. Consequences. These are a few strategies that schools use to encourage students to read. Why?  Reading is the foundation for all other learning. Therefore, reading skills can never be too strong. 

Struggling readers will find it harder to achieve success in school and later in life. Early literacy plays an important role in educational success. The earlier, the better. From birth or better yet before birth. What! Did I say before birth? I sure did. But how? Stay tuned …

First: What is Literacy? Literacy is commonly thought of as reading and writing. But, it involves more than just reading and writing. It expands to using language to engage, communicate, and develop meaning in all aspects of life. Literacy includes speaking, listening, and vocabulary development. I too learn new words each day. So, I repeat, the earlier, the better.

Before Birth: Talk to, sing to, rhyme with, and even read to your baby while you are pregnant. Your baby can hear you. No, she won’t know what you are saying just yet, but she will start to develop language skills. 

Keep it Up: When your baby is born, you will be spending a lot of time holding him/her. You will be tired, but keep reading to your baby. It’s a perfect thing to do while cuddling your child. Don’t forget to talk-sing and to talk. You don’t have to “baby talk,” but you can explain to him while you are doing dishes, laundry, changing him, and everything else you do around the house or while running errands.

Reading, rhyming, singing and talking — beginning from birth — profoundly influence literacy and language development, the foundations for all other learning. has an informative piece on Developmental Milestones of Early Literacy.

Reading together through the years counts.

Let your baby explore. Don’t be afraid to let the baby handle, touch, and explore the books – upside down is acceptable, too. Plastic or cardboard books are good for young hands. For more information regarding the impact of reading to your child and the words learned by simply reading, speaking out loud, even running errands, watch the video below.

Environment: One of the best ways to encourage your baby’s literacy skills is to have books, letter blocks, letters, and reading materials everywhere. Place them in play areas, the living room, kitchen, bedroom, or anywhere you and the baby spend a lot of time.

How: Don’t panic. Yes, there are a lot of books in the photo, but there are ways to fill your home with books. Ask family and friends to donate used books or give language items as gifts. If you are related to me, you will receive a book, a letter puzzle, an interactive alphabet game, or some other form of literacy material for every birthday, Christmas, etc. My 24-year-old nephews still get literature-based materials as gifts. 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends more than one million books per month to children around the world, inspiring them to “Dream More, Learn More, Care More and Be More.”  

The imagination library is a great resource. Many of my friends have or do participate, as did I, and it is phenomenal! The kids love the books the library chooses. Great selections. And as they get older, they love checking the mail for their monthly book. You too can sign up to receive free books delivered right to your home.

Don’t forget your public library. Resources are plentiful, and it’s free. There are storytimes for a variety of ages, various programs, books, computers, and much more. It’s a great place to explore and instill the love of reading in your baby, toddler, child, and yourself. 

The book she is reaching for is bilingual, and since she is growing up in a dual language home, this is perfect. But your baby doesn’t have to be part of a dual language home to enjoy bilingual books. That’s the fun of it. Books introduce us to so many things we may not experience otherwise.

Reading and learning can happen anywhere!

Where: Literacy activities can happen anywhere. In the bathtub, with foam letters. At the table. In your lap. The middle of the library floor. Outside. Follow your child’s lead. Let your child be comfortable and enjoy literacy time. It is not about what’s right or perfect but more about allowing your child to equate literacy activities with fun and good times.

Looks like the child pictured above has found a perfectly cozy reading spot. Literacy is about having fun and through that, you promote a lifelong love of reading for your child.

At the library, this little one confused the mouse with a telephone but look at all the letters on the keyboard. Toddlers love to explore. Follow her lead – even though she made a mistake – and use it to explore literacy.

Picture above. This girl wanted to “read” to mommy. She is reading the book her way, and that is okay. The second little girl didn’t write the note herself, but you can see she’s very interested. Writing little notes to your child and reading them together is another fun way to engage with literacy. The baby pictured is painting her name, with Mommy’s help, of course.

Engage everyone. The more, the merrier.

About our local little readers …

From the following quotes, you can see that reading together is a joy for the entire family. The adults love it, too! Our advice to you, “Just do it! You can’t go wrong.”

We keep books everywhere! Playroom, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, living room and car. Fabiola thinks books are just another toy. Yesterday we played books after I read her a book, she would “read” the book to Valentina. We receive a free book monthly through Dolly Parton and love it! Fabiola gets so excited to receive mail and we keep a basket full of books in her room that she can choose from to read each night and then I try to switch them out every month, which we do when we get our Dolly Parton book.

We do the Dolly Parton library and read to her EVERY night! She talks in complete sentences at 2 1/2! I attribute that to the reading.

Cillian loves reading. I’ve always read to him, since a young infant. I would do picture books but also read my books out loud to him before he knew what was really going on.

My biggest piece of advice! Exposure! We receive the Dolly Parton books and we make a big deal about her getting mail and she gets super excited!

We’ve been reading to her since she was born, every single night! She absolutely adores books and at 20 months has many favs and is beginning to try to read them to us. It’s a beautiful thing she even reads to her bestie “pup pup”.