Early Literacy

Early Literacy

This page is a product of McKinley Memorial Library to be used as a tool for parents of babies, toddlers,
preschoolers and early readers who are at a pre-reading level (approximately ages birth--6 years).

What is Early Literacy?

What are the Six Early Literacy Concepts?

What types of books should I read with my child?       

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What is Early Literacy?
Early literacy is the building blocks that help children gain the skills they need to become successful readers when the time comes for them to begin reading independently.

Early literacy is everything a child knows about reading before he/she actually learns how to read.

At McKinley Memorial Library, we stress the importance of reading with your child from the very beginning--at birth!
We incorporate the early literacy concepts into all of our storytime programs for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
It is not the librarian's nor the parent's job to teach your child how to read--they learn how to do that in school; however, it is our jobs as the librarian and parents to make reading a fun and exciting experience for your little ones.

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What are the Six Early Literacy Concepts?
There are six concepts involved in early literacy. 

 Phonological Awareness  Print Awareness
 Narrative Skills  Print Motivation
 Vocabulary  Letter Knowledge


What types of books should I read with my child?

         Birth to One Year Old
         Two Year Old


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Phonological Awareness--
Being able to hear and play with the smaller sounds that make up words.

Look for books with rhyme and words that can be broken down into smaller parts.

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build phonological awareness skills.

These books are available at the library:

Ages birth-3 years
Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Annie Kubler
Up! by Kristine O'Connell George
Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino
You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love
Jamberry by Bruce Degen
Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett


Ages 3-6 years
A Boy and His Bunny by Sean Bryan
Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox by Erin Dealey
Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Wild About Books by Judy Sierra
Birthday Zoo by Deborah Lee Rose
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
Don’t you Feel Well, Sam? by Amy Hest

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Print Awareness--Understanding that print has meaning, noticing print everywhere (not just in books), and knowing how to handle a book.

Look for books with big, colorful, whimsical text (like it’s moving across the page), and easy-to-identify printed words.

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build print awareness.

These books are available at the library:  

Ages birth-3 years
Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton
Bounce by Doreen Cronin and Scott Menchin
Hello, Day! by Anita Lobel
Snap! by Mick Manning
Animal Noises by Stephen Cartwright
Babies by David Bedford & Leonie Worthington
The Babysitter by Annie Kubler


Ages 3-6 years
The Cow that was the Best Moo-ther by Andy Cutbill
Bob by Tracey Campbell Pearson
My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss
Kitty Princess and the Newspaper Dress by Emma Carlow
Clang-clang! Beep-beep!: Listen to the City by Robert Burleigh
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
Food Fight! by Carol Diggory Shields

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NARRATIVE SKILLS--include the ability to describe things and events, and tell stories.

Look for books that allow you opportunities to have your child tell you what’s happening in the book.

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build narrative skills.

These books are available at the library:  

Ages birth-3 years
Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes
Pigs Love Potatoes by Anika Denise
This Little Chick by John Lawrence
Chugga-chugga Choo-choo by Kevin Lewis
Giggle-wiggle wake-up! by Nancy White Carlstrom
If you see a Kitten by John Butler
Higher! Higher! by Leslie Patricelli


Ages 3-6 years
I’m Not Cute! by Jonathan Allen
Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
No! That’s Wrong by Zhaohua Ji
Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus
A Truck Goes Rattley-bumpa by Jonathan London
Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Farm by Joy Cowley
I'm the Best Artist in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry

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PRINT MOTIVATION--Being interested in and enjoying books.

Look for movable, lift-the-flap, pop-up, textured books, and books with bright colors and vivid pictures or photographs.

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build print motivation.

These books are available at the library:  

Ages birth-3 years
Please Baby Please by Spike Lee
Red Green Blue: a First Book of Colors by Alison Jay
Big Bug Little Bug: Book of Opposites by Paul Stickland
Bunny's Nursery Rhymes by Mary Morgan
Dr. Seuss's Happy Birthday, Baby: Seussian Stuff to Touch, Spin &  Sniff by Dr. Seuss
Is this Maisy's House by Lucy Cousins
My Dad and Me by Alyssa Satin Capucilli


Ages 3-6 years
The Handiest Things in the World  by Andrew Clements
My Crayons Talk by Patricia Hubbard
Ape by Martin Jenkins
The EARTH Book by Todd Parr
Dinosaur Roar! by Paul Stickland
Zoo-looking by Mem Fox
Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant

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VOCABULARY--knowing the names of things.

Look for books that identify objects and use new and interesting words.

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build vocabulary skills.

These books are available at the library:

Ages birth-3 years
Your Own Big Bed by Rita Bergstein
Black? White! Day? Night! A Book of Opposites by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by ll Sung Na
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig
Hello Baby by Mem Fox
Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont


Ages 3-6 years
A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Monkey Truck by Michael Slack
My Farm Friends by Wendell Minor
Flora’s Surprise by Debi Gliori
Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai
Penguin  by Polly Dunbar
Let’s Count Goats by Mem Fox

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LETTER KNOWLEDGE--knowing that letters look different from each other and knowing letter names and sounds.

Look for alphabet books or shape books (because letters are built on shapes).

Here are a few suggested books that help your child build vocabulary skills.

These books are available at the library:

Ages birth-3 years
ABC  by Brian Wildsmith
Awake to Nap by Nikki McClure
Now I Eat my ABC's by Pam Abrams
ABCs in my House by May Harte
Flaptastic Shapes (Board Book, no author)
Play! by SAMi
Skippyjon Jones: Shape Up by Judy Schachner


Ages 3-6 years
Star Wars ABC (Board Book, no author)
A was Once an Apple Pie by Suse MacDonald
Peanut butter and Jellyfishes: a Very Silly Alphabet Book by Brian P. Cleary
Shape Capers by Cathryn Falwell
Q is for duck: an Alphabet Guessing Game by Mary Elting & Michael Folsom
Art by Patrick McDonnell
I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan

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When reading to your baby (ages birth-1 year), select books that:

      • Have a rhythmic pattern and allows opportunities to use different pitches and variations in your voice--
        During the first few months of life, your baby is learning the rhythm of their native language just by listening to you speak.
      • Show other babies--Babies love to look at other babies, which is why they get so excited when you show them a  mirror!
      • Have bright, colorful pictures--Babies love bright colors, so look for picture books or board books that use a lot of color.
      • Use Black and White images--Just as they love bright colors, babies love contrasting colors, like when black and white are used together.
      • Can stand up to baby slobber--Board or cloth books are an excellent choice since most babies explore with their mouths and hands!

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When reading to your two-year-old, select books that:

      • Depict images of and name everyday items--Two-year-olds love to see pictures of things they can easily recognize, like cups, animals, blankets, toys and other items they will know by name.
      • Inspire song or movement--Many board and picture books will offer songs and opportunities to "play along", which children at this age love.
      • Can stand up to two-year-old fingers--Board books are an excellent choice because children can hold them and feel them without  parents worrying about pages ripping.
      • Have pop-up or moveable parts--Two-year-olds love the element of surprise that awaits them with a pop-up book, and they will love to manipulate books that have moveable objects within.

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When reading to your preschooler, select books that:

      • Offer rhyme and repition--Rhyming books allow children to hear the individual sounds that make up a whole word.
        Also, they love to join in, and rhyme and repition allow them opportunities to do so.
      • Allow the child to "guess" what's happening in the story--When reading with your child, look for books where your child can
        help narrate by guessing what might happen next, or what should a character do.
      • Use big, bold, noticeable text--Preschool aged children are beginning to realize that the words in a book "say" something.
        When they are easily able to see the words, they will begin to understand that the text is telling the  story.
      • Showcase the alphabet and numbers--Simply reading alphabet or counting books with your child helps them to begin to recognize
        letters and the sounds that they make and numbers which will help when they learn how to read.
      • Use new and unfamiliar words--Reading with your child helps to enhance his/her vocabulary when you are able to use new and
        different words and explain what those words mean.

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For more information about early literacy, visit the following websites:

Every Child Ready to Read

Friends of Libraries U.S.A.



The Center for Early Literacy Learning

Bank Street College's Guide to Literacy

Early Literacy Tellecollaborative Project

Baby Center--Reading to Your Baby

Hennepin County Library


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McKinley Memorial Library Children's Services 330-652-1704 ext.214