Home » Kids & Teens » Children’s Library » Early Literacy » The Five Practices

The Five Practices

There are five simple, powerful, and fun practices we encourage parents and caregivers to incorporate into their everyday lives that can help establish a strong foundation for early literacy.*  Those practices are:


Children learn about language by listening to adults talk and by joining in the conversation.  When children listen to spoken words they learn:

  • How letters and words sound.
  • The meaning of words.
  • How words can be put together to communicate ideas, information and feelings.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Talk often!  Narrate your life, including everyday activities such as grocery shopping and doing chores.
  • Ask your child lots of open-ended questions.
  • Talk about the pictures and stories in books.
  • If you speak more than one language, use your first language most often.


Songs are a natural, fun way for children to learn language.  When children sing, they:

  • Hear different parts of words.
  • Pay attention to the rhythms and rhymes of language.
  • Develop listening skills.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Clap along to songs to help children hear syllables and improve motor skills.
  • Add singing to daily activities like diaper changes, bathing, feeding, etc.
  • Sing and rhyme as much as possible.  Make up your own songs about your family’s routines or traditions.


Reading together is an important way to help children get ready to read.  Reading with children will:

  • Develop their vocabulary and comprehension.
  • Nurture a love of reading and motivates them to want to learn to read.
  • Show how books and written language work, and that stories have a beginning, middle and end.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Share stories that you love.  Ask your child to turn the pages!
  • Be expressive; silly; make reading time fun!
  • Talk about what is happening in the story using the pictures.
  • Have lots of books around for your child to encounter and read.  Have board books available for babies so they can learn how a book works and build fine motors skills.

Did you know that children can be considered “readers” at all ages, not just when they learn to decode words?  Ask your child to retell a story or “read” the pictures to you!


Writing and reading go together.  Scribbling and writing help children learn that written words stand for spoken language.  For children, writing:

  • Begins with developing small finger muscles which will build dexterity for scribbling, then drawing, and eventually writing letters.
  • Helps develop hand-eye coordination.
  • Helps build awareness that print has meaning.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Give your child opportunities to crinkle paper to help strengthen finger muscles.
  • Encourage scribbling!  This is the way children learn to write.
  • Draw shapes and pictures together.
  • Trace in the sand or dirt with your finger or a stick.
  • Encourage your child to sign his/her name on drawings, or label the different parts.


Children learn through play!  Playing helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically.  When children play, they:

  • Develop narrative skills through imaginary play.
  • Act out real situations.
  • Learn communication, cooperation, construction and much more!

Try these activities with your child:

  • Remember that you are the most important toy in the room.  Set aside distractions and play!
  • Use everyday objects – kids can do a lot with a stick, a box or pots and pans.
  • Come play together in the Early Learning Center at the Central Library or Fairhaven Branch Library.

*Every Child Ready to Read