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What You Need To Know About Early Literacy

Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually begin to read or write. Research indicates that their experiences in the first three years are laying the building blocks for their language, reading and writing development.
Parents and early childhood teachers play a critical role when it comes to literacy development. When considering child care providers for your child, look for media rich environments and access to materials that support drawing, writing and creating. Talk to your child’s caretaker to see if they have opportunities to listen to music or sing during the day, and how often they are read to by an adult. Reading aloud is one of the most important activities that parents and teachers can do with children, and should be doing consistently and often. More words, more words, more words!

Reading aloud has many benefits:

  • It introduces children to new vocabulary words.
  • It builds many important foundational skills.
  • It provides an example of fluent and expressive reading.
  • It boosts conversational skills.
  • It increases phonological awareness.
  • It teaches them that reading can be for enjoyment.

Support your child’s literacy development:

  • Offer to be your child’s class “librarian” by working with the teacher to select a series of appropriate-aged books to check out from the library each month.
  • Introduce your child to the library and bookstores at an early age; attend the free story times offered and participate in reading challenges.
  • Ask your child’s teacher if you and other parents could be guest readers in the class each month.
  • Purchase new books for your child’s classroom and at home.
  • Read to your child every day, even if she was read to by another adult or sibling during the day.
  • Encourage your child to sing along to music and to remember nursery rhymes.


  • Show your baby pictures in books. Describe the colors, objects, and meanings.
  • Ask your child care provider for the lyrics to the nursery rhymes they sing. Repeat them at home for reinforcement.
  • Encourage your child to use simple gestures, like shaking her head “no” or waving “bye-bye.”
  • Repeat vowel sounds like “ba” “ma” and “da.” Make eye contact and imitate their expressions.
  • The more words your baby is exposed to the better. Talk to them about your day, the weather outside or anything else that comes to mind.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • Your child is pointing at pictures and engaging during story time. Ask your provider which books and songs your child likes best at child care, and talk to your child about them.
  • Read books daily. Make story time a part of your nightly routine. Allow your child to turn the pages, touch the words and pictures.
  • Sing the alphabet song on your way to school together.
  • Keep books throughout the house and make a comfortable reading area with pillows and cover just for your child.
  • Read a variety of books to your little one, especially poetry that rhymes.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • Teach your child a “letter of the week.” Use chalk to write it on the driveway, paint it on paper, circle it in magazines, etc.
  • Read their favorite book over and over again. Read it with an accent, read it wearing costumes, or even sing it!
  • Have your child point out the letters she recognizes while grocery shopping or on signs as you drive.
  • Read slow enough to allow your child to build mental pictures.
  • Ask your child to pick out a book and a place for story time. Grant his wishes.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • Make flash cards with pictures to assist your child with learning new words.
  • Read a story and have your child retell the story back to you.
  • During bath time have your child tell a story using their bath toys.
  • When reading, use lots of expressions, change your tone of voice, and adjust your pace to fit the story.
  • Check your local library and bookstore websites to find reading events, author visits and other fun outings where you can take your child.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • Ask your child about the book they read at school today. Ask them to tell you about the characters.
  • After reading a story, ask your child to point out common words such as: up, and, go, run, or stop.
  • Work with your child to make up a story, then write it down.
  • Allow your preschooler to scribble letters without correction.
  • Point out common words at the grocery store, on cereal boxes, and road signs when driving.

Need More Information?
Reading Rockets Early Literacy Development
Get Ready to Read: Building Literacy Every Day
NAEYC: Great Books to Read to Infants and Toddlers


Developmental Milestones

Understanding Developmental Milestones for Your Child

Do you remember your child’s first smile? Or, when she rolled onto her tummy, crawled or walked for the first time? During the moment, you were probably more excited for her accomplishments and less focused on the fact that these special minutes were also important milestones in her development.

Developmental milestones are physical skills and behaviors, such as described above, that are seen in your children as they grow. It’s important to realize that every child is different as is their developmental timeline. However, certain milestones should still occur within a certain age range. By understanding the normal range for when your child should reach a particular milestone you can support her development in specific areas as well as spot any potential delays.

If you do identify any delays or have concerns, discuss them with your pediatrician at your child’s next well visit. Be sure to talk with your child care provider as well to see if she has any concerns about your child’s progress so that you can take that into account when talking with your doctor.

Monitoring Your Child’s Milestones:

  • First, become familiar with all of the developmental milestones using one of the resources below.
  • Next, print a developmental milestones chart for your child’s age and track her progress.
  • Keep notes of any concerns or delays to discuss with your pediatrician; share your concerns with your child’s teacher to see if she has any feedback as well.



  • Soon after birth your baby will begin to smile and respond to affection. Don’t forget to capture these precious moments on camera!
  • Around three months, your baby should turns towards familiar sounds and make eye contact for fairly long periods of time.
  • By his first birthday your child should be locating sources of voices with accuracy and understanding frequently used words such as: “all gone,” “no,” and “bye-bye.”
  • Encourage your baby’s development by allowing him to have supervised tummy-time.
  • Make sure you are attending regular check-ups during your baby’s first year and discussing your child’s development with her pediatrician.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • You’ll start to see your child become more excited to be in the company of other children and also start to imitate the behavior of others more.
  • During this stage, your child will understand simple instructions such as: “give to daddy,” “kiss mommy,” and “stop.”
  • Some of the skills your child will do this year is crawl on her hands and knees and pull up into standing independently at a stable surface.
  • Soon your child will be walking alone, carrying toys while walking, beginning to run, standing on tip toes, and kicking balls.
  • Around the age of two, your child should be able to unbutton large buttons and undress independently.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • Your toddler will be able to follow two or three-phrase commands, sort objects by color or shapes, and imitate adults and playmates.
  • Most 2-3 year olds can link four to five words together for simple sentences but may stutter while thinking about what to say.
  • During this stage, expect your child to walk down stairs independently using one or both feet on each step.
  • Between the ages of 2 and 3, most children can throw a tennis ball forward. Keep working on the catching!
  • Your child will begin to understand opposites, such as: big/little, go/stop, hot/cold, and up/down.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • Your child’s problem solving skills are really developing. Provide him with simple, large floor puzzles to put together to aid in his development!
  • If you have not introduced your child to a tricycle or bike yet, now is the time! Both help to support his motor skills development.
  • Around the age of 4, your child should be able to work zippers and put on her socks all by herself.
  • This year, look for your child to begin copying some capital letters, drawing circles and squares, using scissors, and drawing people with two to four body parts.
  • During this age, children love listening to stories. Ask them “why” questions while you are reading to further engage them.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • Five-year-olds should be able to fix themselves cold cereal and pour some juice or milk, but you should still expect some spills. Encourage this act of independence.
  • By the time your child enters kindergarten, she should be completely self-sufficient in the bathroom, though she still may not be proficient at wiping.
  • At this age, your child’s pencil control is improving and he can color neatly inside the lines.
  • Remember how much fun board games were when you were small? Your child is old enough now to follow simple rules in board or card games. Uno, anyone?
  • Your child’s communication skills have really advanced in this last year. She should be able to speak clearly, understand and use future tense (such as “will be”) and tell a simple story using full sentences.


Need More Information?

Centers for Disease Control Developmental Milestones
American Academy of Pediatrics: Ages and Stages
University of Michigan Health System YourChild Development and Behavior Resources
Growing Hands On Kids: Fine Motor Development for Ages 0 – 6


Connecting with Your Child Care Provider


Making a good connection with your child’s teacher is beneficial for you, the provider and most importantly, your child. Great communication is crucial to a good relationship. Always treat your childcare provider with respect and take an active interest in your child’s progress in the child care setting.


Keep in mind, as a parent, you and your child care provider are partners in nurturing your child and your reactions can help or hurt your child. The better the relationship, the easier it will be to talk about things, such as: noticing a bruise on your child’s leg, health problems, developmental milestones, picking up your child late or provider rate increases.

Studies show that children are better adjusted when parents and providers demonstrate a respectful relationship with consistent practices. Your child care provider has experience working with children, hours of training and certifications. Utilize your care giver for information about parenting and early childhood development. Work with them whenever possible to provide your child consistency and a supportive environment.


Tips for a Healthy Parent and Provider Relationship:

  • Ensure your provider has the best way to contact you and your availability
  • During drop-off ask about the plan for today’s activities
  • During pick-up ask about your child’s day at school
  • Ask how you can volunteer during school hours or after hours
  • Attend class meetings and events
  • Arrange play dates or family walks outside of the program with your child’s classmates
  • Ask about your child’s favorite books or activities and reinforce them at home
  • Praise your child care provider! A hand written thank you note goes a long way.
  • Have at least one special provider to use as your point of contact
  • Keep an open mind and listen carefully to your provider, and communicate clearly as well
  • If you are experiencing problems, give your provider’s suggestions a try first


  • Engage with one special provider each day to ask questions about your child or share information.
  • Get to know your child care provider better by showing interest in her life outside of the child care setting. Ask questions about her family, her weekend or other areas you know about.
  • Communicate with you child care provider as early as possible if you are going to be late for pick-up.
  • Talk to your provider about developmental milestones and how you can encourage your baby to reach another one.

AGE 1 TO 2

  • Find out where the best source for information is. Is there a newsletter, email, or bulletin board you should check frequently?
  • During drop-off ask about the plan for today’s activities. Remember though that your provider may not be able to have a long discussion as other parents and children are arriving too.
  • If your child is experiencing a problem at child care, ask for your provider’s help. Listen and try her recommendations. Then assess and provide feedback as to whether their suggestion was successful.
  • Ask your provider about the happiest moments of your child’s day. If it was story time, ask to borrow the book so that you can read it together at home.

AGE 2 TO 3

  • Praise your child care provider! A hand written thank you note goes a long way.
  • Provide regular updates about your child. Your child’s like and dislikes, allergies, or food preferences are important.
  • Don’t be a stranger. Ask how you can volunteer during provider hours or help after hours.
  • Ask your provider what your child learned while in care today and how you can help reinforce it. Have a conversation about the topic with your child on the way home.

AGE 3 TO 4

  • During drop off or pick up, look for opportunities to compliment your child and also your child care provider on a job well done!
  • Get to know the other children your child spends their day with at child care. Organize play-dates, a school picnic, or family get together.
  • Attend class meetings or events and make sure your child knows that you are there to support them!
  • Slow down during pick up. Take time to talk with your child care provider. Your child seeing the two of you bond will make them even happier.

AGE 4 TO 5

  • Encourage your child to tell his provider “thank you” and to express his gratitude.
  • When your child talks about his day and fun or special learning moments, be sure to share these experiences with your child care provider.
  • Share articles about early childhood education with your provider to let her know that you are interested in her work as well as what your child is learning.
  • Give your child care provider recognition. Write a handwritten Thank Your card or bring her a gift card for a special treat.

Provider Parent Relationships from Purdue
Zero to Three: Choosing Quality Child Care

Quality Counts: Choosing Early Care & Education Programs