Grow a Reader

You are your child’s first teacher

  • You know your child best.
  • You can help your child learn in ways and at times that are best for them.
  • Children learn best by doing. And they love doing things with you.

Whether your child is four days old, or four years old, it’s not too early or too late to help him or her develop early literacy skills. It’s easy and it’s fun! Simply take time to talk, sing, read, write and play with your baby or preschooler every day.

Visit the Calgary Public Library to find a great selection of age-appropriate books for your child. Ask about our early literacy programs and services and start growing your child into a reader for life!

Babies are born learning

Research shows that the first three years of life are very important for building a young child’s brain. Parents, grandparents and caregivers play an important role in this development.

  • Early relationships have a strong impact later in life.
  • Children learn in the context of early first relationships. Warm, responsive caregiving has a long-lasting impact on how we develop, and how we learn as we grow.

It’s not just what you’re born with. Activity, attachment, stimulation and experience determine the structure of the brain.

By the age of three, a child’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s. At birth, most of the 100 billion neurons in a baby’s brain are not yet connected in paths or networks. As infants use their senses to see, hear, smell, touch and taste, connections are made.

Early experience affects how the brain is wired. As your child experiences the world around us, those experiences that are repeated create stronger connections or synapses. In this way, the early experience and stimulation a child experiences plays a crucial role in the wiring of a child’s brain.

Babies and young children learn best through warm and responsive caregiving. Holding, talking, reading and playing with young children cause important brain connections to grow and be strong. This can be done every day, in simple and enjoyable ways: sharing books, songs and rhymes, and talking about the world around us.

There are five great things you can do every day with your child to help him develop skills that prepare him for reading.

The Five Early Literacy Skills

• Children learn about language by listening to parents and caregivers talk and by joining the conversation.
• Use the language you know best.
• Use new words. Good readers have a large vocabulary. Knowing lots of words helps children understand what they are reading.
• Books are wonderful conversation starters. Talk about the pictures and ask your child questions about them.
• Talk about books, and tell stories to your child. Being able to talk about and explain what happens in a story leads to good reading comprehension.
• Take turns talking. Let your child participate in the conversation.

• Singing is a natural way for children to learn about language.
• Sing to your baby. Babies love the sound of singing, and they love your voice best.
• Songs help children develop listening skills. Since songs are often slower than spoken speech, it is easier for a child to hear the sounds of language.
• Music allows a child to hear and play with rhyming sounds, something that will be important when he starts to sound out words.
• The rhythm in music allows a young child to hear syllables and the different chunks in words.
• Music is soothing, both for the singer and the listener. Singing a lullaby can calm both the child and the parent!

• No matter what your child’s age, reading together is the most important single activity that can help your child get ready to read.
• Shared reading is such an enjoyable experience for both adult and child. Read together when your child is in the mood, and choose fun and interesting books.
• Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves. A child’s interest in reading is an important predictor of later reading achievement.
• Reading develops vocabulary by exposing your child to rare words that might not be used in everyday conversation.
• Reading a story with a beginning, middle and end exposes your child to the notion of narrative, something crucial for later reading comprehension and understanding.
• Reading to your child and letting her turn the pages and handle books allows her to understand how a book works.

• Reading and writing go together. Both are ways to represent spoken words and to communicate information.
• Children become aware that printed letters stand for spoken words as they see print around them and in books.
• Let your child make her own marks on paper, which will begin to develop her eye-hand coordination. Eventually she will have fine motor skill to make letters, draw pictures and make words.
• Sing nursery rhymes and play rhyming finger games with your toddler! Besides allowing your child to hear the sounds in words, finger rhymes develop fine motor skills he will use later when he learns to write.

• Children learn about language through different kinds of play. They practise putting thoughts into words, which develops their language skills.
• When children pretend or use dramatic play, they are learning about the world around them and making sense of it. They will need this background knowledge later when they start learning to read.
• Play helps children think symbolically; they realize that one thing can stand for another. This helps them understand that written words stand for real objects and experiences.
• Dramatic play helps develop narrative skills as children make up a story about what they are doing. This helps them understand the sequencing in a story: first, next, last.

Ten Tips to Grow a Reader

  1. Share books with your baby from infancy! Introduce your child to age appropriate books, and they will grow up loving them. Put sturdy board books in the toy box, take books in the car, keep some in the diaper bag.
  2. Show your child how books work: point out the front cover, and teach him to turn the pages.
  3. Let your child see you read too. She will want to do what you do.
  4. Make book sharing fun. Whether you cuddle up together at bedtime or read for a few moments during play time, choose a time when your child is in the mood.
  5. Talk about what you see in books. Look at the pictures, and let your child tell you what is happening.
  6. Have fun with language. Say nursery rhymes and repeat them often.
  7. Sing together. Your child loves hearing your voice, and music stimulates and increases her understanding of the sounds in words.
  8. Talk about your day. Tell your child what you are doing and talk about what he is doing.
  9. Read longer stories or tell oral stories to your child as she gets older. Choose stories that have a beginning, middle and an end. That understanding will lead to later reading comprehension.
  10. Point out print all around us. Show your child the text in books, read signs and cereal boxes. Show him how you use print every day to get things done.