What is early literacy?

Early Literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can read and write. It is not coaching or teaching young children how to read. It’s the natural development of reading and writing skills through positive experiences with books, songs, rhymes, and more.

Cultivating Early Literacy skills starts at home because parents and caregivers are their child's first and best teacher. There are five ways parents and caregivers can prepare their child for a lifetime of reading success: talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.


Talking develops a child’s oral language skills. Narrating your day and having a conversation with your child helps them understand the world around them and increases their vocabulary.

Ways to incorporate talking into your routine:

  • Make silly sounds and animal noises; encourage your child to mimic you.
  • Use puppets, stuffed animals, or other toys to tell (or re-tell) a story.
  • Tell a story about an experience you had as a child.

Singing slows down language and allows children an opportunity to hear the smaller sounds in a word. It also helps children develop listening and memory skills.

Ways to incorporate singing into your routine:

  • Sing about what you’re doing. (Ex. This is the way we put on socks, put on socks, put on socks…)
  • Gather household items to use as instruments and play music.
  • Sing or say nursery rhymes.

Reading together with your child is the single best thing you can do. Picture books often contain words that people don’t often use in everyday conversation. The more words a child hears, the easier it will be when they start to read.

Ways to incorporate reading into your routine:

  • Designate a specific time of day to share a book.
  • Visit the library to attend storytime and/or check out books.
  • Make books accessible to your child in different areas of your home.

Writing is closely linked with reading as they both represent spoke language. It isn’t simply being able to write the letters of the alphabet; it starts with children making small lines, squiggles, and swirls.

Ways to incorporate writing into your routine:

  • Build hand and wrist muscles by using play dough.
  • Draw, paint, and create using different utensils (crayons, markers, chalk, etc.) with your child.
  • Trace shapes or letters in a shallow tray of flour, salt, or baking soda.

Playing is an opportunity for a child to put everything they have been learning into practice and to develop their large motor skills. It is the most important thing a child does.

Ways to incorporate talking into your routine:

  • Pretend to be an animal. Move and make noise like it does.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt in your house or neighborhood to find different shapes and/or colors.
  • Play “I Spy”.

These Early Literacy skills are incorporated into all Storytimes at Charleston County Public Library. Learn more about what we offer and where.

Want to continue reading and learning at home to improve your child’s new and budding skills?

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Register for our 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program.

Reading aloud to children from birth helps strengthen language skills and build vocabulary – two important tools for learning to read. Plus, sharing stories together is fun!

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We have many book lists you and your child may enjoy sharing together at home.

Don’t have a library card yet?
Apply online today!

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Check out a Storytime Kits To-Go!

Charleston County Public Library has 102 thematic storytime kits available to check out. Inside each kit, you'll find all the supplies you need to recreate the storytime experience with your child – books and age-appropriate puppets, toys, puzzles, games and rhymes that highlight the featured theme, along with information on how to download songs and music through the library.

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Looking for small, intentional ways to incorporate more learning at home? We have Early Literacy activity calendars in English and Spanish available to print and at your local branch.