Literacy is simply defined as the ability to read and write. Before children reach this stage, there are a range of pre-literacy skills children can learn to help support their reading and writing development. These skills include; attending to a book being read to them, understanding that print has meaning, knowing the meaning of a range of words, knowing letter sounds.
No matter the age of a child (or adult for that matter!) regular engagement with books has a range of positive benefits. Additionally, a child is never too young to interact with books. When a baby first starts engaging with books, they may place the book in their mouth, turn the book around the wrong way or quickly flick through the pages in a random order. This is all to be expected as a baby first starts exploring books and participates in the process of being read to. At this stage you can support your baby’s early literacy skills by turning the book around the right way, model turning pages of the book and pointing to and commenting on pictures.
As toddlers develop, shared book reading becomes an important way to support the development of communication and engagement skills. Shared book reading is an interactive reading experience when parents turn book reading into a back and forth conversation about the book, rather than simply reading each page word for word. This way of book reading provides lots of opportunities for toddlers to hear new words and practice using those words in context. The benefits of shared book reading with toddlers includes improving vocabulary development, improving parent-child interaction, and increasing print awareness.
Some important points to consider when engaging in shared book reading with your toddler or young child:
- Sit comfortably where you can see the book and look at your child at their level.
- Turn book reading into a conversation by commenting on what your child is interested in on each page in the book.
- Focus on the interaction rather than focusing on just reading each page word for word.
- Repeat what your child says and expand on the words to make it a short sentence.
- Provide opportunities for your child to take turns in the book reading by waiting, looking at your child or asking the occasional open-ended question.
- Teach, don’t test! Provide lots of comments, rather than continually asking your child questions.
Appropriate book selection is important to increase engagement of children within the overall shared reading process. Where possible, provide your child with a few choices of books. Allowing children to often select the books they want read to them ensures that your child is involved within the shared book reading process and more motivated to engage with the book for longer.
Types of books which toddlers commonly enjoy include:
- Books with interactive components such as lift the flap, mirrors or touch-and-feel books.
- Books that children have made themselves such books with photos of themselves of familiar locations.
- Books with repetitive words or sentences and alliteration. Examples of books with repetitive content include ; Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Who sank the Boat by Pamela Allen and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.
- Books with bright and engaging pictures or drawings