An Overview of Early Literacy

Over the last month I have dedicated myself to researching and learning about early childhood brain development and what libraries can do to help foster growth in our youngest people. As staggering as the facts may be, it is important to be knowledgeable so that ultimately you can help your children succeed. After all we only want what is best for our kids. So bear with me as we go through some of the (not so fun) facts about brain development, school readiness, literacy and library use.

Studies indicate that:

  • You can actually begin to see developmental differences in children’s brains beginning at 18 months;
  • Children that are ready to learn how to read upon entering kindergarten will be more successful in school than those who aren’t;
  • Children that are reading at or above a fourth grade reading level in fourth grade are more likely to graduate high school than those that aren’t;
  • Strong predictors of literacy skills include: Alphabet knowledge and phonological awareness (both necessary before children start school);
  • And, 33% of low socio-economic children visit the library versus 66% in high socio-economic homes.

Even though most people know how important books and literacy in the home is, the percentage of parents that actually take the time to read to their children is staggering. According to a PEW Research survey only 50% of parents with children under the age of 12 read to their children every day, with 26% doing so a few times each week. Thankfully that number rises and 58% of parents with children under the age of six read to them every day. That’s still not great, but it is something.

At this point I think everyone would agree that we can only go up from here and now that we have armed ourselves with the facts we need to understand how to help our children learn and grow. One fantastic tool you have are the Five Early Literacy Practices set forth by the American Library Association: Talk, Write, Read, Play and Sing.

By mastering these practices before entering school, kids will be more successful when they actually start to learn how to read and write. This is because early literacy is not about teaching your children how to read, but what to teach them so they can eventually learn how to read; and this is where you and the Marshall District Library comes in.

The library offers several early literacy programs designed specifically for three different age groups. Baby Time is a lap-sit program designed for babies ages birth to 24 months and their caregivers. Using rhymes, actions, stories, and songs, this storytime helps lay the foundation for reading. Toddler Time helps your 2 to 3 year old prepare for school with shared books, songs, movements and other activities that promote early literacy practices and self-esteem. Finally, Little Tykes Storytime encourages children ages 3 to 5 to learn, discover, socialize and stay active with stories, songs and crafts. (Dates and times may vary so please contact the Youth Desk at 269-781-7821, ext. 15 or visit our Events Calendar for specific meeting dates.)

In addition to our storytimes, we have an Early Literacy Play Area. Here you will find activities and toys that help develop the Five Early Literacy Practices, as well as information for parents on how to incorporate these ideas into the home. Children are encouraged to play dress-up, practice writing and drawing on the chalkboard, to play with puzzles and much, much more. We also have an overstuffed chair perfect for sharing a book together. Staff is constantly rotating the toys and activities in this area so there is something new and exciting for you and your children to explore and learn with.

I know this is a lot of information to process, and I know changes can’t, and won’t, be made overnight. All I am asking is for you to keep these statistics in mind when you interact with your children and to try and encompass more of the Five Early Literacy Practices into your daily lives. Most importantly, please remember to give children experiences that will ultimately help them begin the learning process. It is with this experience that you will help your children’s brains develop, which in turn will help them be more successful in life.

Over the next few weeks I will be blogging about each of the Five Early Literacy Practices and I will be focusing on why each of them are important to the learning process as well as give ideas of how to incorporate them into your daily lives. And I do promise that none of those blogs will be as lengthy as this one.

In the meantime, for more information regarding early literacy, on the library itself, or on any of our offered programs, visit or call the Youth Desk at 269-781-7821, ext. 15 or explore our website.

Reading Aloud

Reading to your child(ren), starting at birth, is essential. Period. No questions asked.

But you may be asking yourself why. After all, more than likely your baby is talking over you and attempting to rip the book from your hands. So here’s why:
Studies show that even if kids don’t look like they are paying attention, they really are! They are absorbing the words you are reading to them, thus increasing their vocabulary, and when they do bother to look up, they are learning from your behavior. They are learning how to hold a book, how to read and how the words you are saying aloud relate to the what’s on the page.

So is there a magic number of books to read to your child(ren)? Yes, 1000.1000

1000 books? No way! Just remember it’s not 1000 different titles, it’s just 1000 reads. If you read one book a night in three years you will have read 1095 books. And if you read two books a day you will reach over a thousand in less than two years. The good news is that soon we are will begin our “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” campaign to help you and your child(ren) reach this very important milestone.

But, don’t wait for us! Start reading to your child(ren) today and look for our official campaign (complete with incentives) later this year!

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