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 kdeverell@ecalliance.org or contact her at 800-423-1498 extension 2483.