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Encourage Early Literacy and Reading


My baby is 4 months old. Is there anything I can do now to help when it’s time to learn to read and write?



Reading, writing, and language come from skills that you can practice right now.



Reading, writing, and language come from skills that you can practice right now.

Early literacy skills

Read and talk, talk, talk to your baby. For young babies, hearing language means learning language. Here are some things you can practice now:

  • Learn how to turn pages in book. 
  • Look at and recognize books. 
  • Understand the story and pictures in a book. 
  • Talk or babble as you read. 

Keep books out and at your baby’s level and let baby explore the books. For a 6-month-old, this may mean mouthing the book while a 1-year-old may enjoy stacking the books. 

Talk all day to your baby, even newborns. This is how babies learn to speak. Narrate your actionas you interact with your baby. For example, “Mommy is going to change your diaper,” or, “It’s time for our walk, let’s get your coat on and put you in the stroller.” It might seem odd to “talk to yourself” without a reply, but the more words your baby hears, the more their language will develop. 

Make reading part of your baby’s routines. 

You can consider labeling the places and things that your baby sees often like “door,” “bathroom,” “toys.” Place the labels at the child’s eye-level. 

Point out the written word in places other than books. You can point out letters in your child’s name when you see them or things like stop signs when you’re on a walk. 

Read books that appeal to infants and toddlers. 

Tips for picking out books just right for your baby

Babies 0-6 months:

  • Books with simple, large pictures or designs with bright colors. 
  • Stiff cardboard, “chunky” books, or foldout books. 
  • Cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures of people or familiar objects that can go in the bath and be washed. 

Babies 6-12 months:

  • Board books with photos of other babies. 
  • Brightly colored “chunky” board books to touch and taste. 
  • Books with photos of familiar objects like balls and bottles. 
  • Plastic/vinyl books for bath time. 
  • Washable cloth books to cuddle and chew on. 
  • Small plastic photo albums of family and friends. 

Toddlers 12-24 months:

  • Sturdy board books that they can carry. 
  • Books with photos of children doing things like sleeping or playing. 
  • Goodnight books for bedtime. 
  • Books about saying good-bye and hello. 
  • Books with only a few words on each page. 
  • Brightly colored books. 
  • Books with simple rhymes or predictable text. 
  • Touch-and-feel books. 
  • Animal books of all sizes and shapes.