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Language and Early Literacy Development

Language & Literacy

Language and literacy development starts from the very beginning. Babies are listening in utero, and once they’re born, they’re communicating through eye contact, facial expressions, crying, smiles and touch. When adults respond with words, conversation and attention, it helps promote healthy development and learning.

When babies and toddlers hear words and language from caring adults, their brains develop the connections they’ll need to learn to use language and, later, to learn how to read. Studies show that children whose parents and caregivers regularly talk and read with them develop larger vocabularies and go on to become better readers and do better in school. That’s because the first few years of a child’s life are when the brain grows and develops the most.

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For all ages


'Conversation is the Golden Nugget'

What’s the best thing parents can do to support their child’s development? We asked an expert on how young children learn and develop language skills.

Let's talk about talking

Father and toddler son reading together

Podcast: Reading, Language and Early Literacy

This episode of the pArentZ pod, the Arizona infant and toddler podcast from First Things First, is all about reading, language and early literacy.

Listen to the podcast

Reading for life skills

Reading Together Builds Life Skills

More than just learning words and language, reading books with your young child helps them learn to pay attention, set goals and develop self control.

Learn how reading builds more than words

mom reads picture book to daughter

Children’s Books Open Up New Worlds

Sharing books with your baby, toddler or preschooler helps spark their curiosity and introduces them to new words.

Read about the joy of reading

Important skills

The Most Important Skills Kids Need

Communication, reading and writing skills all develop together starting in early childhood and are important for success later in life.

Learn more about language and literacy skills

woman with puppet playing with toddler boy

Raising a Bilingual Child

The best possible time to learn a second language is during early childhood. Bilingualism aids brain development and strengthens cultural connections.

Learn more about learning multiple languages


Parents With Babies


how to read to your baby

VIDEO: Reading With Your Baby

Get tips on how to read books with your infant. More than anything, reading together is quality bonding time.

Make the most of reading together

serve and return interactions help babies learn and develop

VIDEO: Baby, Let's Talk!

Having back-and-forth conversations with your baby, even before they can talk, helps them learn and develop language.

Get in the game!

Never Too Young to Learn

Your baby arrives ready to learn, so it’s never too early to start talking, reading and playing with your newborn.

Watch the video

Parent Kit: Your Baby from 6-12 Months

Your baby learns more from playing and being with you than from anything else.

Check out the Parent Kit


Parents With Toddlers


mom letting toddler choose which book to read

VIDEO: Reading With Your Toddler

Watch this episode of Parents Playbook for the top 5 tips for reading books with your toddler.

See the Top 5!

VIDEO: Young Children Don't Learn New Words from Screens

Watching television or videos – even programs billed as educational – does not help children under age 2 learn language and literacy skills.

You are your child's best teacher

Your toddler

Parent Kit: Your Toddler Ages 1-2

Between ages 1 and 2, toddlers start to explore their independence. They have strong likes and dislikes and will often say “No!” and “Mine!”

What to expect from a 1 to 2 year-old

Your Toddler from age 2-3

Parent Kit: Your Toddler Ages 2-3

Between ages 2 and 3, your toddler is able to do many new things. Testing their limits is definitely one of those things.

What to expect from a 2 to 3 year-old


Parents With Preschoolers


quality talk beats quantity of words

For Language Development, Quality Talk Beats Quantity of Words

You’ve probably been told that the more words your young child hears the better. A recent study takes that a step further, showing that quality talk is better than just quantity.

See why quality beats quantity

kindergarten classroom

6 Ways to Help Your Child be Ready for Kindergarten

While the big day may still be months away, it’s not too early to start preparing for that first day of kindergarten.

Get tips on school readiness



Read On Arizona: Smart Talk

Smart Talk is having quality back-and-forth “conversations” with your baby or toddler that promote learning and support later reading success. You don’t need special tools or training. Anyone can do it, anywhere, anytime.

Find out about Smart Talk

Mother playing with daughter rattle

ZERO TO THREE: Language and Communication

Even before their first words, young children develop their own unique ways of communicating with you. Find videos, articles and other resources about about how language development unfolds.

Learn more from ZERO TO THREE

Talking Matters! Video Series

Looking for even more in-depth information about speech and language development in young children? Watch these videos from the University of Arizona, intended for parents and early childhood educators, including effective strategies and frequently asked questions.

Learn more


About FTF Header
First Things First supports the health, development and early learning of Arizona’s young children from birth to age 5. We partner with families and communities to help kids have the positive, nurturing experiences they need to arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. We do this through quality early care and education programs, preventive health efforts, and supporting parents in their role as their child’s first teachers.

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