Reading & Writing (birth - 33 months)

Before Watching

When you read to your little one early and often, you encourage her to grow and thrive. Through early experiences with books and writing, children build vocabulary, learn to recognize letters and the sounds that they make, gain key communication skills, and discover that words are truly wonderful. These skills—as well as helping your little one develop a love of books—will help her become a wonderful reader.

In this video you’ll meet children from four families:

  • Milo (3 years) as he paints and writes his name.
  • Marcelo (20 months) as he acts out his stories and finds words on street signs.
  • Eloise (3 years) and her brother Otis (16 months) as they read and draw side-by-side.
  • Indy (8 months) and Nico (3 years) as they cuddle up and enjoy books.

Watch how they make reading and writing an exciting part of their daily routines.

After Watching

Read Early, Read Often. When children have early experiences with books, they develop vocabulary, an awareness of how books and words work, and comprehension skills. Sharing books is also a great way to bond with your little one and have exciting learning adventures together. In this video, you heard many of the parents discussing the importance of reading together. Milo's grandmother mentioned that he and she sit together and share books for hours on end. Marcelo gets so excited about reading that he jumps up to sing and dance after he's heard a good story. Recalling the video, consider these questions about your child: What types of books does your child like to read? Does she like stories that rhyme? Does she prefer books with flaps that she can lift? Does she want to hear her favorite tale again and again?

Try This.

  • Before you read a new book to your child, introduce it. Read the names of the author and the illustrator aloud. Talk with your child about the pictures on the cover. Ask: What do you think this book is about? Or What do you think is going to happen in this story?
  • Read with expression. Don’t be afraid to be silly or dramatic! Add sound effects or have your child add sound effects. If you are reading about a dog, your child can bark each time he sees a picture of the dog.
  • Let your child take the lead in choosing the book and setting the pace. If she wants to interrupt the story to turn to a favorite page, talk about the pictures, or chime in with a story of her own, that’s fine.
  • If you are reading a story with a phrase or refrain that repeats, pause to let your child fill in the words.
  • Ask lots of questions about what’s happening in the book and about the characters and the illustrations. Encourage your child to ask questions, too!
  • Read aloud books in whatever language you feel most comfortable. You can also make up words to go with the pictures.

Think about what you can do to add to your child’s enjoyment of books and reading. Reading together should never be a chore, but a pleasant experience for both of you. Cuddling up with a bedtime or naptime story is not only a wonderful family tradition, it is a helpful routine that can ease transitions. Your child will look forward to this special story time.

Write Away. Your child's scribbles are actually his first experiences with writing. His loops and zigzags will eventually become letters. In the video, 3-year-old Milo paints his name on a large sheet of paper, while 3-year-old Eloise and her mom take turns drawing pictures. Both families mention how important it is to give your child access to lots of different writing tools.

Try This.

  • Take an extra box and turn it into an art bin that your child can easily reach. Fill it with crayons, paper, markers, and other art supplies. (Make sure the supplies are not small enough for your child to put in his mouth. Supervise your child as needed.) Encourage your little one to decorate the box.
  • Dedicate a wall or door to his creations so that he gets the message that his drawings matter. When you’re out and about, bring along crayons and paper so your child can draw pictures while waiting for the doctor, or can mimic you when you check off things on your grocery list.

Beyond the Book. Books can inspire exploration that takes you beyond the page. In the video, Marcelo looks for the things that he reads about as he is out in the world.

Try This.

  • As you read, act out some of the things you see in the pictures together.
  • Help your child retell or reenact part of the story, using toys or props.
  • Talk with your child about things she has seen or done that are similar to or different from those in the book.
  • Talk with your child about how he thinks the characters might be feeling. Help him make connections to his own experiences and feelings.
  • Talk about something from the book as you and your child go about your day. You might: point out that the fire hydrant is just like the one you saw in the book; use a fun-to-say word; or make up a new story together about one of the characters.

Find books at the library, bookstores, and discount stores. Yard sales and used bookstores are also great places to find books. While you’re at the library, explore special programs they may offer for babies, toddlers, and their families. Ask the children’s librarian for recommendations of books, music, community programs, and other resources for children and parents. You can also meet other families with young children.

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