Raising a Reader

Experts have identified activities that can help your child get ready to read. Engaging children in these simple activities every day can help them develop early literacy skills.

Toddlers aged 19 months – 2 years can benefit from these activities:

1. Talking

Children learn about language by listening to parents talk and joining in the conversation. Talking, telling stories, and stretching conversations are ways children learn new information, new vocabulary, and other early literacy skills.

2. Writing

Reading and writing go together. Both are ways to represent spoken words and to communicate information. As children scribble and draw, they practice eye-hand coordination and exercise the muscles in their fingers and hands. This helps develop fine motor control they need to hold a pencil or crayon and to write letters and words.

3. Reading

No matter what the age, reading to your child is the single most important activity that you can do to help your child get ready to read. It introduces children to “rarer” words that they may not hear in everyday conversation. Shared reading develops a love of reading and an appreciation of books. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read.

Talking Activities
  • Use the phone.
    • Help toddlers talk on the phone to a friend or family member.
    • Give play phones to toddlers and help them play with them.
  • Join make-believe.
    • Join toddlers in their make-believe play to introduce new words and to encourage them to talk.
  • Talk!
    • Talk during activities, such as when eating, washing hands, and picking up toys.
Writing Activities
  • Use markers, chalk, and paint.
    • Use markers to write on a white board. Use sidewalk chalk or a paintbrush with water to draw on the sidewalk, patio or deck.
  • Have fun at the beach.
    • Draw squiggles, letters or words in sand.
  • Paint the bath tub.
    • Provide bath paints for your toddler when they are taking a bath.
  • Sign it.
    • Have toddlers “sign” their artwork. It will help them start to learn how to write their name.

Learn more

Parents and caregivers, here are some books on writing for toddlers.

Reading Activities
  • Read books.
    • Read to your toddler every day.
  • Make a list.
    • Let your child help you with the grocery list. As your child names items that are needed, have them watch you write them down. Also point out the letters on the food labels.
  • Read Symbols.
    • “Read” symbols aloud, on signs (stop signs, library, etc).
  • Let them play on the fridge.
    • Provide magnetic alphabet letters for the fridge.
  • Point.
    • Point to the words as you read to toddlers, so that they will begin to understand that you are reading the words, not the pictures.

Learn more

Parents and caregivers, here are some books on reading for toddlers.

4. Playing

Play is one of the best ways for children to learn language and literacy skills. Play helps children to think symbolically; a ruler becomes a magic wand, today becomes a time when dinosaurs were alive, a playmate becomes an astronaut exploring space. Play helps children 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’re doing. This helps them understand that stories happen in an order (first, next, last).

5. Singing

Songs help children develop listening skills and pay attention to the rhythms and rhymes of spoken language. Singing slows down language so children can hear different parts of words and notice how they are alike and different. Clapping along to rhythms help children hear the syllables in words, and it improves motor skills.

Playing Activities
  • Offer a variety.
    • Provide a variety of table toys and materials that encourage toddlers to use their hands and fingers, such as pegs to place in pegboards and blocks to stack and then knock down. These are great for developing fine motor skills.
  • Hide and seek.
    • Just as she loved peek-a-boo as a baby, your toddler will love to play simple games of hide-and-seek. First thing in the morning take turns hiding under the bed sheets; at bath time, use a big towel.
  • Blow up a balloon.
    • Balloons are great for indoor play — they move slowly enough to be chased and are relatively easy to catch. Blow one up and tap it gently into the air. Count how long it takes to float to the ground or let your toddler try to catch it. This is a good game for counting skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Dress up.
    • Provide dress-up clothes and props — hats, scarves, shoes, keys, tote bags, and pocketbooks. Most toddlers like to dress up, pack a bag, and pretend to leave and come back. They play house with pots, pans, dishes, and other household items.
Singing Activities
  • Action music.
    • Play music that lends itself to particular actions – something with a big, loud beat so your child can stamp like an elephant, or something quiet so she can pretend she’s tiptoeing past a sleeping lion. Marching to music is also great fun and easy enough for most toddlers to manage. These games will stretch her imagination and develop her sense of rhythm.
  • Get rhythm.
    • Provide rhythm instruments for toddlers to use while singing. They can shake or hit these instruments to the beat of the song.