• active reading: strategies readers need to help them understand the text and remain engaged
  • environmental print: print found in the everyday world, such as store and traffic signs, logos, menus, calendars, price tags, and so on
  • print awareness: the understanding that print is organized in a particular way (e.g., it is made up of letters, words, and spaces between words; it is read from left to right, and top to bottom; it carries a message)

Teach Through Books and Conversation

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

As Professor Villegas-Reimers says, learning how to read and write is key to our society. But children do not become literate automatically, they must be taught. Early childhood educators can teach children about the world and help them develop the skills they need for a solid foundation in reading and writing by engaging them with print and conversation. When adults open the world of print to children, it strengthens language skills, promotes important vocabulary growth, develops comprehension, and teaches print awareness. 

  • Teach with books that entertain, amuse, inform, and challenge young readers with  new ideas, interesting vocabulary, or a new twist on an old idea.
  • Use books to expand children’s understanding of the world and topics that already interest them, as well as to introduce them to topics they are not yet familiar with.
  • Prompt children to be active readers by asking them to contribute ideas, comments, and questions; learn new vocabulary; and demonstrate comprehension. Engage children with questions and model active reading before, during, and after reading.
  • Encourage conversation that elicits what children know or want to find out.
  • Offer the space and the opportunity for children to read alone or with others. Provide a quiet, comfortable space for readers to take time out to explore and enjoy a book on their own or with peers.

In this video, you’ll see some examples of how educators engage children through books and conversations. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do the educators use books as teaching tools?
  • How do the educators keep children engaged while reading?


How do books help facilitate children’s development as readers and writers?

  • Through books, children can:
    • Develop print awareness.
    • Be exposed to new vocabulary.
    • Engage in conversation.
    • Be introduced to new ideas.
    • Make predictions.

How can you facilitate conversation around books?

  • Ask questions that prompt critical thinking before, during, and after reading to model active reading:
    • Find out what children already know. (Where do we see water? What fruit or vegetable has seeds? What kind of flower is this?)
    • Prompt children to share their own experiences. (What do you wear on a snowy day?)
    • Encourage children to tell something they want to find out. (What would you like to know about how things grow?)
    • Check comprehension. (Why were Peter’s socks wet?)
    • Ask children to make predictions. (What do you think will happen next?)
    • Confirm children’s predictions. (Were we right? Did the snowman melt?)
    • Help children understand new vocabulary. (What does gigantic mean?)
    • Form opinions. (Did you like the giant? Why or why not?)
    • Connect learning to a new idea. (Plants need food, water, and sunlight to grow. What do people need?)
  • Encourage children to read and discuss books with a friend or group of friends.

How can reading expand children’s interests and broaden their understanding of curriculum-related topics? 

  • Children can read about:
    • Things they already know about or are already interested in.
    • Places and events outside of their own experiences (e.g., dinosaurs, skyscrapers, rain forests, etc.)
    • Curriculum-related topics (e.g., plants, water, transportation)

How can the conversations before, during, and after reading help educators make the reading experience richer and deeper?

  • Build on interests to expand the reading experience. Educators should notice when children are intrigued or excited by experiences they have or things they read, and provide more books about those topics.


Think about the learning environment at your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How do you develop children’s reading and writing skills?
  • What did you learn that you will put into practice in your own learning environment?
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