5 Ways to Support Early Literacy Skills

Early Childhood

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald

Earlier this year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a Right to Read document on issues affecting students with reading disabilities. While thinking about how schools are opening back next week for children in Ontario, I wanted to share 5 ways that parents/caregivers can begin supporting early literacy skills at home and from an early age.

1. Develop an early love for books: Books can be introduced to little ones, even while they are in the womb! Did you know that in the final trimester of pregnancy, babies become better able at hearing a range of tones, and might even react to the sounds and voices that they hear outside of the womb? If a fetus hears the same melody over and over again, they will likely recognize this sound as a newborn later on. Check out Annie Murphy Paul’s TedTalk on What we learn before we’re born. Instilling a reading routine from a young age and continuing as your child gets older will contribute to strengthening and building their imagination, curiosity and interest in books.

woman reading book to toddler

2. Have books available in the home: Have books that you love to read and a selection of children’s books available. Did you know that children love to imitate the actions of adults? If they witness your love and interest for reading, they too will start to build that interest themselves. The library is also a wonderful place to explore a wide selection of books on shapes, letters, colours, emotions, and so much more. Sometimes I like to put eBooks and eAudiobooks on hold from the Toronto Public Library. Whether you live in Toronto or not, their amazing Ready for Reading program is worth checking out, as it’s filled with lots of great information about children’s early literacy. If you do live in or near Toronto, make sure to check out one of their KidsStop early literacy centres near to you, and get a free library card if you don’t already have one!

books on rack

3. Teach the alphabet: What better way of learning the letters A-Z than through the alphabet song. Talk with your child about the different shape or symbol formation of the upper and lower case letters of the alphabet. Fun ways to explore this can also be from an alphabet puzzle, poster, and especially books. There are many books about the alphabet and lots that are written in more than one language. One of my favourite alphabet books is ABC Mindful Me by Christiane Engel.

white red green and yellow letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter letter

4. Talk often and teach new vocabulary: Long gone are the days when “goo-goo, ga-ga” was used to communicate back to a baby. Young children develop their expressive language, what they say and communicate, both verbally or non-verbally, from their receptive language, what they hear, see and understand from the people around them. Expose your child to a range of new vocabulary and explain to them what complex words in books mean. This will support them when they begin to talk, read and write.

photo of woman and girl talking while lying on bed

5. Play together: Children learn and understand so much about themselves and the world around them through play. With and alongside you, and even through their own independent exploration. Sing rhyming songs, listen to music, play games and activities with letters and words, create your own stories, or simply play pretend. Play materials such as blocks, toys and manipulatives help to develop the muscles in their hands that they will soon need for holding writing tools.

a mother playing ukulele while singing to her daughter

Ever wonder what goes on in a child’s brain while you’re reading together? Check out this video 👇

Additional Resources:

About the Right to Read Inquiry

Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development – Language Development and Literacy

Zero to Three – Reading Resources

Toronto Public Library – Ready for Reading

Toronto Public Library – Resources for Teachers & Parents

Toronto Public Library – Children’s Books List

Sunnyseed – Book Club

Reading with Littles: Free Tips, Milestones, and Foundational Early Literacy Skills for Babies & Beyond (Thank you for allowing us to share your resources, Sunnyseed!)

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Resources for Children with Hearing and/or Vision Needs:

Literacy for Children with Combined Vision and Hearing Loss

Paths to Literacy – Overview of Literacy for Children and Youth Who Are Deafblind

The Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness – Language and Literacy Resources

National Center on Deaf-Blindness – Literacy


This website is provided only for informational purposes and not intended to be used to replace professional advice, treatment or professional care. Always speak to your physician, healthcare provider or pediatrician if you have concerns about your own health or the health of a child.

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