ECA Blog

Early Literacy & Young Children

Awhile back, I presented a workshop called, “A Books And More.”  The workshop featured ideas to extend a book with other activities to do with kids.  During the workshop I also presented information about how teachers and caregivers can help children develop early literacy skills, different ways to read a story, and tips for choosing books for young children.  Following is a compilation of the early literacy information I gathered while preparing for the workshop.




What can teachers and caregivers do to help children develop literacy skills and pre-reading skills? From Story Stretchers for Infant, Toddlers, and Twos 

  • Give children interesting things to talk about and opportunities to express themselves.
  • Tell stories.
  • Expose children to pictures.
  • Read to them from age appropriate books.
  • Allow children to handle books and use them freely.
  • Communicate the attitude that reading is fun.
  • Provide diverse experiences with people and places.
  • Make sure children are in good health, checking on potential hearing, vision, or speech problems that might prevent the normal development of pre-reading skills.



Did you know that there are many ways to “read a story”?


Take a Picture Walk

  • Encourage the children to use their words to tell the story
  • Ask questions

–     What do you see?

–     What do you think this book is going to be about when you look at the front and the back cover?

–     What are pictures do you notice on this page?

–     What do you notice about the ____?

–     Who do you see on the cover/page?

–     Where do you think they live? Why? What things do you see that tell you they live ____?

  • Point out key pictures that emphasize new vocabulary
  • Write down the children’s rendition of the story as you take a picture walk

Read the Story

  • Sit with the children and read the story
  • Point out pictures that emphasize key vocabulary words
  • Ask questions that might connect the story to the children’s lives
  • Compare/contrast the children’s story based off of your picture walk to the actual story

Story Board (flannel, magnetic, story in a bag, story in a box, puppets)

  • Place the story piece on the story board and solicit vocabulary and story from children
  • Pass out pieces to children and as you retell the story, invite the children to place the pieces on the story board
  • Place the story board in the reading area for children to recreate their own stories

Act the Story Out

  • Use pictures or props created to represent characters/scenes
  • Ask each child which what part they would like to act out
  • For those children who do not want to act, assign other roles

–     Director

–     Narrator

–     Photographer

–     Gopher (Props man)

–     Lighting


Listen to the Story on CD

  • Go to your local library and check out the book on CD
  • Gather the children and listen to the story using the CD

–     Invite a child or two to help hold the book and turn the pages

  • Place the book in the book area for children to listen to during their choice time.



Tips for Choosing Books for Young Children

  • The story must capture children’s interest in the first couple of pages.
  • Illustrations or photographs must be of highest quality and be clear and crisp, easy for a young child’s eyes to decipher.
  • Text and illustrations must work together on each page.  The words must address the actions in the illustrations on that page.
  • Text and illustrations must be free from stereotype or prejudice about any person or group of people.
  • The story should stimulate the child’s imagination.
  • A sense of self-worth should be encouraged in the story.
  • A wide range of family lifestyles and cultures should be represented in the book selections.
  • Wordless books should be included in selections for toddlers and twos.
  • Stories with minimal text and large print are best.
  • Stories with repetitive phrases, rhyming language, and crisp dialogue will become favorites.
  • Stories should celebrate independence and competency in children, and affirm the value of each child.





Early Literacy by Zero to Three



The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction by NAEYC


Website Resources:



Reading Rockets   – a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.



Every Child Ready to Read @ your library®   – a parent education initiative. It stresses early literacy begins with the primary adults in a child’s life.



Kacey Deverell is the Mentor Supervisor at Early Childhood Alliance.  She coordinates the mentoring team as well as provides mentoring and technical assistance for Paths to QUALITY programs.  She has a Master’s degree in education from Ball State University.  You can email Kacey or contact her at 800-423-1498 extension 2483.

But Me Wait

Are your children aware of their feelings, needs, and impulses? Can they calm themselves, control their behavior, and focus on tasks? Preschoolers who can do these things find it easier to take turns, make friends, and adapt to school routines. This ability is called self-regulation.  *From Play and Self-Regulation in Preschool by Illinois Early Learning Project

Self-Regulation has been on my mind a lot these days.  What can I do to better equip my children to help themselves?  To help get some guidance, I asked our Inclusion Specialist, Nicole Wysong for direction.

Have a Great Week!




As the inclusion specialist at ECA, I work with both families and organizations in helping them provide quality early care and education for young children. There are many resources available to families and programs that provide information on strategies and techniques for inclusion.

One resource is Your ADD Answers, hosted by De Shawn Wert, a trained ADHD coach and early childhood preschool director. At this site, Wert shares some helpful information about self-regulation and how it can be affected throughout a child’s development. What is self-regulation? It involves a child’s ability to calm himself when upset and find ways to recover. He can then go back to his typical daily routine. Self-regulation of emotions tends to be more challenging for children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) as well as other types of social and emotional delays.

According to Wert, supporting children in learning appropriate social and emotional skills can lead to improved behavior. Self-regulation is actually just one of the functions under the category executive functions. Executive functions take place in the brain, working together to help people organize, prioritize and persist in completing everyday tasks. Six functions that are impaired in children with ADD or ADHD:

  1. Activation – involving organization and prioritizing
  2. Focus – the ability to sustain and shift attention
  3. Effort – a person’s ability to regulate their alertness, to sustain effort and the speed that the brain processes information.
  4. Emotion – the ability to manage frustration
  5. Memory –  your brain’s ability to recall information
  6. Action – self-regulation or ability to “move on” when upset

With her background as a preschool director, Wert notes that a problem that occurs in early childhood education is the belief that using rigorous academic standards to “push” preschool children to become super achievers is having a negative effect. This emphasis on academic over achievement is having a negative impact on all children.  It is not good to overlook the social and emotional area of development. Wert recommends a more balanced approach to supporting a child’s development. It is important that young children participate in intellectually stimulating activities but not to the detriment of social and emotional skills development: “without the purposeful development of self-regulation skills, we can inadvertently set children up for frustration that leads to the dislike of school.”

Wert’s recommendations for parents and educators to support a child’s self-regulation include:

  • Help children learn the vocabulary terms that they need to develop self-control. Cookie Monster on Sesame Street sings a song about learning self-control, Me Want It, But Me Wait.
  • Teach children to use the word “Yet.” A parent can review with a five-year-old who is frustrated about a challenging task, how a child’s skills improve over time. The parent can remind the child that when he was an infant that he could not walk or talk – YET. When the child was age two he did not use the restroom – YET. When the child was age 3 he could not (pick a skill and insert) – YET. We can teach children that they can persevere, and achieve their goals.
  • Praise a child’s for trying. Self-control is not an easy skill to master for a young child. It is important to recognize the effort that goes into trying, not just success.
  • Self-talk. Teach a child to review the steps that he needs to take to complete a task. The child can verbally state the steps to boost his memory.
  • Teach your child problem-solving strategies to cope with frustration. Strategies that help children include taking deep breaths, counting to three, finding a quiet spot to rest or color, and using self-talk.
  • Give directions and specific instructions. Teach, review and model classroom, game and social rules. Be aware that children need repetition – 18-35 times of hearing and experiencing – to master the rules. Do not assume the children remember the rules.
  • Identify and develop your child’s own interests, which can be used to help keep your child motivated during the challenges of learning self-control. Keep in mind that your child may not necessarily share your interests. You may like sports, but your child might prefer to participate in music.
  • Become the expert on your own child. Learn your child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning self-regulation. Some resources Wert recommends for helping parents and teachers understand challenging behaviors are:



Nicole Wysong is the Inclusion Specialist at Early Childhood Alliance.  Through The Indiana Partnership for Inclusive Child Care (IPICC) project, Nicole impacts families of children with special needs and their child care providers. IPICC focuses on:

  • Offering on-site technical assistance.
  • Providing training opportunities.
  • Assisting child care providers to meet criteria in Paths to QUALITY.
  • Increasing awareness of and providing resources for the unique needs of all children.

Contact Nicole at or 800-423-1498.



DeShawn VanDeWater-Wert, learned ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) can affect adults as well as children when she was diagnosed with the disorder late in life. “It allowed me to recognize and develop my own action plan and leverage my strengths,” she says. It also allowed her to become an expert in that field. With a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from Purdue University, a Master of Education degree in curriculum design plus administrative certification from Indiana Wesleyan University, she has presented at the International ADHD coaching organization and is a contributing expert various books. DeShawn can be reached with additional questions at



Articles & Tip Sheets:

Play and Self-Regulation in Preschool by Illinois Early Learning Project

Developing Young Children’s Self-Regulation through Everyday Experiences from NAEYC

5 Tips For Promoting Self -Regulation in Preschool Children: A Parent’s Guide from Trident United Way

Reading With Dad

Some of my best memories of childhood involve my parents reading aloud to my three brothers and me.  I remember us all piled on my parents bed listening to Mom read a “Bobbsey Twins” adventure by Laura Lee Hope.  But some of my fondest memories are of the quiet Sunday afternoon moments when I would crawl into Dad’s lap and he would read the comics from the newspaper to me.

If you are a dad, do you spend time reading with your child?  Reading with your child is fun, and a great way to spend time together. It not only increases your child’s literacy skills, but research shows that children who enjoy reading do better in school. But better than that, it helps you build a strong and loving relationship with your child. is a great website dedicated to the importance of reading to children.  It encourages every parent to read to his/her kids 15 minutes each day.  That’s right – Read aloud 15 minutes – Every Child.  Every Parent.  Every Day.  Every parent includes you Dad!

Why the emphasis on reading to children?

  1. Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher.
  2. Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.
  3. By making 15 minutes of daily reading the new parenting standard, we will change the face of education in this country.


Dads do make a difference so start reading tonight!

Have a GREAT day!




  • Read Aloud Dad – a good blog written by a dad dedicated to reading aloud to his kids that includes tips and books reviews.
  • Dad’s Playbook – Helping Kid’s to Read a downloadable pdf from the Government Printing Office – pamphlet is geared to get dads to help their kids to read, using case studies and helpful tips.
  • Tips for Reading Together by – specifically encourages dads in Britain to read more to their children, but the information is for any dad.