Early Literacy

Reading is vital to a child’s ability to learn and be successful in school. And the skills needed to be a good reader – like language and vocabulary – start developing from birth. But it doesn’t happen automatically. A child’s brain is not pre-wired for reading.


Every Word Counts

The first few years of a child’s life are when the brain grows and develops the most. And scientific research has shown that a child’s experiences in these early years affect how their brain develops.

Even before your child can speak, they need to hear lots of words. When a child hears words and language from caring adults, their brains develop the important connections needed to learn how to read. Talking and reading to your baby or young child helps them learn new words and build new and stronger brain connections.

Studies show that children whose parents and caregivers talk to them, read to them, tell them stories and sing them songs develop larger vocabularies, become better readers and do better in school.


5 Ways to Talk With Your Baby

Talking with your baby stimulates brain development and provides the foundation for literacy and learning. Here are some easy ways to add more words to your daily routine and help build your child’s brain:


1. Ask Questions
Ask your baby questions and encourage them to answer with coos, babbles and eventually words. Back-and-forth interactions make a difference in your baby’s brain.
2. Repeat
Repeat words and short, simple sentences over and over again to help your baby learn vocabulary.
3. Describe
Narrate daily activities to your baby, such as changing diapers, feeding, getting dressed or ready for bedtime. Describe what you and your baby are doing and feeling.
4. Introduce New Words
Bring your child new, unusual words by reading books, singing and telling stories.
5. Get Everyone Involved
Encourage others to spend time talking with your baby, including brothers and sisters, grandparents, child care providers and friends.
Keep in mind that hearing words on TV, recordings or screens isn’t the same. It doesn’t help your child build their brain. Interactions with you and other caring adults do. So talk with your child as much as you can, whenever they are awake. Every word they hear is important.
Adapted with permission from TalkWithMeBaby.org.


Favorite Books for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers


Make Reading Part of Every Day

Read books with your child every day. Make it part of bedtime or other daily routines. Young children feel safe and secure with regular routines, and children’s books are also an important way to expose your child to new, interesting words.


Read On Arizona

First Things First is a founding partner of Read On Arizona, a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations and community stakeholders committed to creating an effective continuum of services to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children from birth through age eight.