Early Literacy

What is Early Literacy?

Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn to read and write. It is not teaching reading, drilling or using flashcards. Instead, it is laying the foundation, so that your child has necessary skills when he or she is developmentally ready to read.

Why is Early Literacy Important?

Babies are born ready to learn. Recent research shows that babies are born with billions of brain cells called neurons. The more stimulation a baby receives through its senses, the more pathways develop between brain cells. Young children must develop early literacy skills in order to be successful with formal reading and writing in school. 46% of children in the United States enters kindergarten unprepared. Research shows that children who start behind typically stay behind. Providing young children with opportunities to develop early literacy skills is important to their success in school, their success learning to read, and their success in life.

Five Early Literacy Practices

Enjoy these simple activities with your child anytime and any place throughout the day. Besides being fun, they will help your child get ready to read!

  • Talking: Learn language by listening to others talk. Hearing words leads to understanding their meaning as you hear them in context.
  • Singing: Songs slow down language and break down the sounds and syllables in words. Practicing rhythm and rhyme help.
  • Reading: The single most important way to help children get ready to read is to read together!
  • Writing: Connect spoken and printed language. Scribbling counts!
  • Playing: Playtime exercises imagination and encourages expression of thoughts.

Most of our children's services librarians have received Early Literacy Training and incorporate exercising these skills with your children during our library programs. These early literacy practices come from Every Child Ready to Read, a project of the American Library Association.

We've created fun printable activity sheets you can download for free that will help you and your child get to know the five Early Literacy Practices.

See the Five Early Literacy Practices in action with our new Early Literacy Videos.


Our Children's Librarians have developed several lists of books to help get your son or daughter ready to read.

Library Programs

Early Literacy Calendar

The Preschool Program calendar includes a complete list of storytimes and preschool programs at JCPL branches. 
 MARCH 2020 
APRIL 2020
Every month we will also share daily literacy-building activities to help your child learn the Early Literacy practices (provided by PLA (the Public Library Association).

January 2020 calendar
February 2020 calendar