Encouraging Early Literacy Skills in Toddlers and Preschoolers

BY DENISE WORTHINGTON

During the toddler and preschool years, you are laying the groundwork for your child’s reading and writing success — but don’t let that overwhelm you. There are reams written about early literacy skills and reading development, and we could spend all day discussing research-based ideas, what educators want to see when your child enters school, and things to do to help your child establish early literacy skills.

But, I don’t believe in making your toddler’s or preschooler’s playtime like school. What I do believe in is creating a literacy friendly environment without judgment, so that your child learns to love books, writing, and creating — not a threatening place where reading, telling stories, and scribbling becomes hard work and not much fun.

8 tips to help parents promote early literacy skills and reading readiness in young children. Try these ideas with your toddler or preschoolers. Build a foundation for reading with your child.

So instead of providing hard and fast rules, I’ll touch on some ideas that you can do easily to help your child begin to establish early literacy skills.

8 Tips for Encouraging Early Literacy Skills in Your Toddler or Preschooler

  1. The most important thing you can do is the most obvious – Read!
  2. Young children need to learn early on that print contains a message, there is a world to discover in a book, and reading is fun. A child is never too young to be read to or to snuggle up with a bedtime story. You can read to your child from the day you bring her home.
  3. It’s important to expose your little one to a variety of genres, including rhyming books, old-fashioned nursery rhymes, fairy tales, alphabet books, label books and poetry. Cadence of language is important and also helps to engage even the most reluctant and ‘busy’ child.
  4. Reading doesn’t start and stop with a book. Reading is all around us — on cereal boxes, road signs, in the mail — opportunities to read to your child are everywhere.
  5. Besides sitting down to read, you can take an ‘interactive approach’ when reading. This means that in addition to reading the text of the story, you can use descriptive phrases to talk about the pictures in the book. I like the approach, but not to the point of losing the thread of a story. If you’re interested in learning more about interactive reading, check out The Incredible Years by Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton, who feels it’s important to encourage your child to be an active participant in the reading process.
  6. Another important area of literacy learning is writing. Writing is the reading process slowed down, and scribbling is the first stage of this important skill.
  7. Set your toddler or preschooler up with an area for writing and drawing. An easy way to do this is have a box with scrap paper, construction paper, crayons, markers and other writing tools. Encourage your little one to draw a picture about a favorite story. It doesn’t matter if no one really knows what the picture is, he knows and he has had a chance to tell his version.
  8. Magnetic letters also help build early literacy skills. Besides learning the alphabet through songs, books, and puzzles, the tactile aspect of magnetic letters is important. Kids use all senses to learn.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for developing early literacy skills. No two children are alike and children develop at different rates. Think about the time when your child was learning to walk. He crawled, pulled himself up and then took off on his own schedule. That’s how it is with the reading process too — in stages and at a child’s individual pace. 


Denise Worthington is Lou’s Mom. She’s a retired reading teacher and children’s book author who spends her time serving on local boards, entertaining at the lake, and running for political office.

Thanksgiving Books Perfect for Toddlers and Preschoolers

By Denise Worthington

You would think that choosing a few favorite Thanksgiving books appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers would be easy, but I wanted to be thorough, so I went on field trips to the library, the bookstore, the used bookstore, and did online research. I polled contemporaries—meaning other grandmothers. Apparently grandmothers, or at least the ones I know, spend a lot of time in the children’s section of bookstores, and everyone had an opinion. The problem wasn’t having enough to write about, but having too many Thanksgiving books to choose from.

The best books about Thanksgiving for Toddlers and Preschoolers selected by a reaching teacher | board books and children's books for young children | Holiday books
Even after 20 years as a reading teacher, I don’t have a magic formula for picking a good children’s book. I look for books with a nice language flow and interesting illustrations. I think rhyming books are especially appropriate for little folks because the cadence of language engages them. But the most important ingredient is you, the adult who takes the time to snuggle and share your love of reading with your child.

Six Thanksgiving Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers

There are many more books about being thankful—appropriate anytime of the year—and there are plenty of books about pilgrims, Native Americans, the first Thanksgiving, and family, but these six are my picks for toddlers and preschoolers.

  1. A tried and true classic, my number one choice is Over the River and Through the Woods, with the original poem by Lydia Maria Child. There are a variety of versions available, but my favorite is the musical board book, illustrated by Wendy Edelson. This is the classic poem with lovely illustrations, plus your child pushes a button and the melody is played. The book does not mention a specific holiday and would be appropriate for any winter celebration.
  2. I love silly books for toddlers and preschoolers, and Turkey Trouble by Wendy Silvano, illustrated by Lee Harper, fits the bill. The turkey realizes that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and he is on the menu. His attempts at disguising himself like other farm animals will have your little one laughing at his silly antics.
  3. 10 Fat Turkeys, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Rich Deas, is a rhyming book that also teaches toddlers and preschoolers to count backwards from 10. Besides the value of learning to count, I love the language in the book, and your child will be able to “gobble, gobble, wibble, wabble” along with the chorus of turkeys. Repetitive phrasing goes a long way toward helping children grasp the nuances of language.
  4. For a nice board book for young toddlers, try Gobble, Gobble, Tucker by Leslie McGuirk that shows Tucker the dog’s adventure on Thanksgiving. Tucker visits with his dog cousins, smells delicious thanksgiving smells, and watches his family prepare for the holiday. The book has simple text, enjoyable pictures, and gives a glimpse of a family Thanksgiving.
  5. Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Morkes, illustrated by Doris Barrette, is a rhyming book with lovely illustrations of (what I would call) a classic Thanksgiving. It shows that we all should be thankful for the blessings coming our way. If you’re looking for a way to convey the meaning of Thanksgiving, this book does the job.
  6. Five Silly Turkeys, a board book by Salina Yoon is an entertaining, brightly illustrated counting book appropriate for toddlers. The book has shiny material feathers, so you have the tactile option with this book. The rhyming words are clever, and the story is fast moving.

What about you? Do you have other favorite books that you share with your children (young or older) this time of year?


Denise Worthington is Lou’s Mom. She’s a retired teacher and children’s book author who spends her time serving on local boards, entertaining at the lake, and running for political office.

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