Skip to main content
Fairfax County logo

Early Literacy

Early literacy is what children know about communication, language—verbal and non-verbal—reading and writing before they can actually read and write.

Early Literacy Daily Activities

Learning Toys

Early literacy is what children know about communication, language—verbal and non-verbal—reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Research shows that children get ready to read years before they start school. Help children learn important skills now so they can become good readers later.

Take every opportunity to read, play, sing, talk and write with your children. These daily activities will help get children ready to learn.


Friday, September 25

Babies and Toddlers: Take time to look at the cover of the book together. Soon your child will recognize favorite books by their covers. This will get your child excited about reading together.

Preschoolers: Play - Put on a play based on a favorite book that you have recently read with your child. Make simple props and costumes. Enlist help from other family members. You can show your production to far-off family members via your favorite teleconferencing software.

You can practice every early literacy skill by retelling a favorite story. Have fun “playing” with the story and you will cultivate a love of reading.

Thursday, September 24 

Babies and Toddlers: Talk about the books you read with your child. Act out parts of the story together. Playing with a story helps children learn new words, concepts and ideas.

Preschoolers: Sing - Sing a good morning song to greet your child in the morning.

Singing helps children hear the syllables in a word because every syllable is a beat. This fun activity lays the foundation for sounding out words when they learn to read.

Wednesday, September 23

Babies and Toddlers: Try to make up voices for the characters. Playing encourages children to talk and lets them experiment with new language.

Preschoolers: Talk - Talk about things you do in the morning, things you do in the afternoon and things you do at night.

In addition to learning new vocabulary, your child is beginning to sort information by comparing and grouping items.

Tuesday, September 22

Babies and Toddlers: Point to, name and touch the pictures together. This will show your child that print has meaning.

Preschoolers: Write - Plan a picnic. Write a list of things you will need to bring.

When we plan and organize an activity by making a list, we are showing children that marks on a page (writing) have meaning.

Monday September 21

Babies and Toddlers: Repeat and play with the words in books. Sing the words to your baby. They will begin to enjoy making some of the sounds back to you encouraging speech development as they become older.

Preschoolers: Read - Print is everywhere. Point out words wherever you go today.

Reading environmental print is a great way to make young children aware of print and the usefulness of print.

Week of September 14

Babies and Toddlers: Sing or say nursery rhymes and other rhymes you know or have read. Once your child knows the rhyme, let them finish a line: You say, “Jack and Jill went up the …” and let your child say, “hill.” Playing with words helps develop language skills.

Preschoolers: Play - Play the “Syllable Jump” game. Collect a variety of objects from around the house and place them in a container. Take turns removing an object, saying its name. Say the name again and jump for each syllable in the word.

This fun activity combines movement and phonological awareness. Children will begin to hear the smaller sounds in a word as they jump it out.

Babies and Toddlers: Play games with your toddler using their toys. Take turns rolling a ball back and forth. Say words like, “Roll it! Catch it! Throw it!” Clap and smile when they take turns with you. Playing is a great way to introduce new language.

Preschoolers: Sing - Play music and when you turn it off everyone has to “freeze” in place until the music starts again.

Having to stop and wait for the music, helps children practice self-control and concentration which are important school readiness skills.

Babies and Toddlers: Hold your baby in your lap and read every day. Choose books with pictures and simple words in them. Let your baby hold books, look at them, touch the pictures and turn the pages. They will learn how books work.

Preschoolers: Talk - Use a fruit or vegetable your child has not seen before and talk about how it looks, feels, smells and tastes.

Learning is enhanced, including vocabulary, when children use their senses as they explore something new.

Babies and Toddlers: Play the “Show Me” game. Say: “Show me your eyes.” Help your child point to their eyes. Say, “Yes! Those are your eyes.” Ask your child to “show you” other body parts, clothing, or favorite toys. These games build vocabulary.

Preschoolers: Write - Write ten activities on the sidewalk with chalk, one activity in each sidewalk block.  For example, jump 10 times, hop on one foot to the next activity block, do the chicken dance, etc. Let your imagination go wild.

Not only does this show children that print is very useful, it is great exercise. A bonus would be to catch your neighbors doing the activities as they pass by.

Babies and Toddlers: Play tapes or CDs with songs and sounds on them. Some can be found at your local library. Listening to sounds helps build language skills.

Preschoolers: Read - Vary your voice as you read. Use different expressions to help children learn about feelings.

Using your voice to convey feelings will enhance the story and make it come alive to children.


Early Literacy Library Scavenger Hunt

Reviews of E-Books for Preschoolers

Dad's first day

Dad’s First Day by Mike Wohnoutka
A first day of school story with a twist – it’s Dad who’s anxious about the start of school.  Oliver and his dad do everything together, but now it’s time for Oliver to start school. He and his dad get ready, packing his lunch and trying out his backpack. The big day arrives, and Oliver’s dad doesn’t feel good.  His tummy hurts and he’s nervous.  He drives slowly taking Oliver to school and has a hard time saying goodbye. All the worries, big and small, that young children and their parents experience when it’s time to go to school are gently presented.  And Dad discovers that not only is Oliver ready for school, he is too. Available as a narrated e-book.

Early Literacy Tip: Give your child art supplies and ask them to draw pictures to continue the story.  Ask open-ended questions such as “What do you think happens next?” “What else can Oliver and his Dad do together?”  “What do you like to do at school?”   Open-ended questions build your child’s critical thinking skills. Help write the text your child narrates to go along with their illustrations.

You hold me up

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel
Beautiful illustrations encourage children to be considerate and care for the special people in their lives.  We see children and adults sharing, learning, playing and laughing together. Most important, we are reminded that by respecting everyone we meet, we can hold each other up.

Early Literacy Tip: Show your child the repeating phrase “you hold me up” and ask them to read those words with you each time they appear in the story.  Help your child build print awareness, an important early literacy skill, by running your finger under the words as you read. This will help your child understand that you are reading the words, not just looking at the pictures.


E-Books for Preschoolers

Checkout e-books using Overdrive or RBdigital

Baby on Board by Marianne Berkes
You know that babies are carried by grownups, but do you know how animal parents carry their babies? This book looks at a variety of different animals and displays how the mother and/or father carries their baby.

Bears on Chairs by Shirley Parenteau
Four chairs. Four cuddly bears. All is well until Big Brown Bear shows up and wants a seat.

Breaking news: Bear alert

Breaking News: Bear Alert by David Biedrzycki
Two bears awaken from hibernation and go to town—literally. During their visit, they eat at a diner, dress up at a department store and stop a couple of bank robbers, all the while mistaking the townspeople's terror for friendliness.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

A Different Now by Angela Johnson
Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.

Fight Pollution, Big Bird! by Jennifer Boothroyd
Young readers learn all about pollution and how to protect earth with Big Bird and his Sesame Street friends. Keep water clean, pick up litter and recycle to help stop pollution.

A Girl Like Me by Angela Johnson
Empower young readers to embrace their individuality, reject societal limitations and follow their dreams. This inspiring picture book brings together a poem by acclaimed author Angela Johnson and Nina Crews's distinctive photocollage illustrations to celebrate girls of color.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim
In this Chinese American retelling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears. She eats up the littlest panda's rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair and rumples all the blankets on his futon. When Goldy takes responsibility for her actions, she makes a new friend (and a whole plate of turnip cakes!) just in time for Chinese New Year.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
Harriet loves costumes. She wears them to the dentist, to the supermarket and most importantly, to her super-special dress-up birthday party.

Hooray for You! by Marianne Richmond
Hooray for You! is a celebration of You-Ness, the grand sum of mind, body and heart that makes every person truly unique. Look in the mirror. Love who you see. Stand tall. Smile big. Shout, "Hooray for me!" A welcome appreciation of the wonderfulness in us all.

Lola Dutch When I Grow Up by Kenneth Wright
Determined to decide what to be when she grows up, Lola tries several careers before listening to her friend, Bear, who reminds her that she need not be in a hurry.

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn
Lola plants a flower garden with her parent's help, and watches it grow.

The Ninjabread Man by Katrina Charman
In a terrific twist on the original tale of The Gingerbread Man, follow the amazing Ninjabread Man as he dips and dives out of danger.

On Kiki’s Reef by Carol Malnor
A tiny baby sea turtle scrambles across the sandy beach and into the sea. Floating far out in the ocean, Kiki is becoming a gentle giant. She swims to shallower water where a rainbow of corals puts on a show. Kiki adopts the busy coral reef as her new home and discovers fish of all sizes.

Over in the Forest by Marianne Berkes
Children learn the ways of forest animals to the rhythm of "Over in the Meadow" as they leap like a squirrel, dunk like a raccoon and pounce like a fox. They will also count the babies and search for ten hidden forest animals.

Trucks! by Charles Reasoner
Follow a day in the life of Truck while he is at work.

Yasmin the explorer

Yasmin the Explorer by Saadia Faruqi
When Yasmin's father explains to her about explorers and maps, Yasmin decides to make a map of her neighborhood and she brings it along on a trip to the farmers' market with her mother.

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli
Learning about opposites has never been more fun or funny. Spaghetti is yummy, but worms, blue crayons and sand are definitely yucky when tasted.

July 2020

Fairfax County seal