The materials you need in order to create a “literate home” at this stage are minimal, but the way that you use them with your child is important. Babies and toddlers need to explore books, letters and writing materials as they begin to figure out the special significance of these objects. What they need most, however, is for their parents to talk and listen to them. Through talking and communicating with their parents and caregivers, they build a strong language base, the ability to both understand and use language that will support their literacy development.
What You Can Do
- Place books on sturdy, low shelves or in plastic storage bins. Babies and toddlers are more likely to explore books if they can get them easily.
- Keep your older baby or toddler’s writing materials in one place. You can decorate a cardboard box or buy an inexpensive plastic container for his writing materials. This way, he will have easy access to them when he wants to write and he knows that they are special things.
- Establish a daily read-aloud routine. You can do this by reading aloud to your baby or toddler at the same time and in the same place each day. Remember that children this young cannot focus for long periods of time, however, and will be more interested in the pictures than in the story.
- Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs to your baby. Even though your baby will not understand them, hearing these will help her learn the patterns and rhythms of language.
- Talk together about things that interest your child. Talk about things you do, see, and hear as you go about your day. Talking to your child often helps her learn vocabulary and grammar.
- Get your child involved when you read aloud to him. Older babies will be able to turn the pages of chunky board books, point to pictures when you ask and say the sounds that go with pictures of animals or trucks.
- Incorporate literacy into outings. Visit your local library, bookmobile, or bookstore to find new read-aloud ideas for your child. Many libraries feature free song and story hours that older babies and toddlers may enjoy.
- Be a reader and writer yourself. One of the most effective ways to help children become readers and writers is to show them through your own example that you value literacy and that reading and writing have useful purposes. Make sure that you have a variety of printed and writing materials in your house, that you use them on a regular basis, and that you talk to your child about what you are doing when you read and write.