Tips for Parents

There is no hard and fast timeline for children’s literacy development, but reading specialists are able to generally recommend activities for preschoolers by age. These activities, which promote listening, talking, reading, and writing, are only suggestions and parents should use their own judgment and knowledge of their child’s development in sharing books with their child. Here are some “tips” that are adapted from the Vermont Early Literacy Initiative (ELI) and “The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction” from Young Children (2003.)

0-1 Year Olds:

  • Make story time a part of each day.
  • Read aloud and talk a lot with your infant.
  • Keep books within reach of your baby, so that they can handle the books independently and turn the pages.

2 Year Olds:

  • Two year olds may want to select books themselves and retell stories.
  • Encourage the growth of vocabulary by reading new stories and poems with your toddler.
  • Expand on what your child says about a story, introducing more mature vocabulary.
  • Listen and respond to what your child says about the story and expand the conversation to the child’s everyday experiences.

3 Year Olds:

  • Try to make reading and drawing a part of each day—but do not force children to read. Keep reading fun! Re-read old favorites together.
  • Children at this age may be able to make predictions about the plot line or characters. Talk with your child about the book throughout the story.
  • Explore the language in stories, for rhyme and alliteration. You may ask your child, “What other words sound like cat?” (hat, mat, pat) or “Which words start with the same sound?”
  • Keeping magnetic letters, alphabet charts, alphabet stamps, and alphabet puzzles available for play may help children acquire the ability to recognize letters over time.

4 Year Olds:

  • Invite 4 year olds to read, draw, paint, and play games. Some four year olds like to scribble in an attempt to mimic print. Keep paper and crayons available so that children can write and illustrate their own stories.
  • Four year olds often like to retell stories and make up their own stories.
  • Some children are beginning to identify shapes and letters. You may help build letter/sound connections by pointing out to your child that words with the same sound start with the same letter. “Duck and dog both start with the letter D.”
  • Keep a wide variety of books available (fiction and non-fiction), including favorite storybooks and picture books. A child’s interest in a particular topic (cars, boats, animals) can be reinforced and expanded by gathering more books on that topic. Librarians can help identify age appropriate books on a topic or theme.
  • Many children enjoy reading old favorites.

The National Association of Education of Young Children website also offers parents extremely useful information about early literacy. Visit