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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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School Readiness

O-12 Months##


Literacy begins on the lap of a loved parent or caregiver. As you sing, rhyme, and tell stories, babies develop listening skills and an interest in and love of words. As the two of you cuddle and read together, babies develop good feelings about books. This encourages them to play with books, mouth them, turn their pages and, eventually, read them. 

Click on the links below to learn more about how to use books to encourage your baby’s early literacy:

Encourage exploration of books
Think about what your baby does when she listens to or plays with books. These “book behaviors” are the first steps in your child’s developing literacy skills.

Book-handling—touching or handling books, playing with books. 
You may see your baby:

  • turn pages
  • lift/drop books
  • mouth or chew books, or

  • open/close books.

Looking and recognizing (a picture, character or scene). The length of time your baby pays attention to and looks at the pictures in books will grow as she does. You may see your baby gaze at one picture, or even have a favorite picture or story that she likes to look at most. At about one year, babies may even begin laughing at funny pictures!

Understanding pictures and stories. 
This means connecting pictures and stories to things that happen in the “real” world. You may see an older baby (beginning at about 10 months) make the connection between a book and experiences in his daily life. For example, he may point at or go get a teddy bear after seeing one in a book. 

Story-reading behaviors. Older babies and toddlers will pick up a book and pretend to read it. Your baby might babble along with you while you are reading or point at the pictures and make excited sounds. 

What you can do:

  • Read lots of books. Reading together helps your baby develop a love of reading and a familiarity with books. Reading aloud also helps your baby’s vocabulary grow as she has many chances to hear new words and learn what they mean. 
  • Use books as part of your baby’s daily routines. Read before naptime or bedtime. Share books made of plastic at bath time. Read a story while you are waiting for the bus. Bring books to the doctor’s office to make the time go faster.
  • Read with gusto. Use different voices for different characters in the stories you read your baby. Babies love when adults are silly and it makes book reading even more fun. 

Follow your baby’s lead with books
As babies grow and develop, they will begin to show you what they like most about books. For example, one baby might simply want to keep turning pages while another wants to chew on the sturdy pages of his favorite board book. 

Here are some ways your baby may tell you she likes (or doesn’t like) what you are reading:

  • Kicking or waving her arms when you are reading a story she especially enjoys.
  • Smiling or giggling when you choose a story he likes.
  • Crying, protesting, arching his back, or pushing the book away if she does not like the book or if she wants to do something else. 
  • Focusing carefully on a picture that really interests him. He may be so interested he’ll stop sucking his pacifier! 

Between 6 and 12 months, your baby may especially like books that “do” things. Some good choices are books that:

  • Are rubber or plastic and can be taken in the bath;
  • Have tabs to pull or lift;
  • Have textures to touch or holes to poke a finger through;
  • Have pieces to lift to see a picture underneath.

This shows how your child’s growing physical skills (especially having more control over her fingers and hands) helps build her literacy skills. 

To learn more about early literacy in babies and toddlers, visit this section on the ZERO TO THREE site by clicking here. 

What you can do:

  • Let your baby “read” her own way. Your baby may only sit still for a few pages, turn the pages quickly or only want to look at one picture and then be done. She may even like to just mouth the book, instead of read it! Follow your baby’s lead to make reading time a positive experience. This will nurture her love of literacy from the start. 
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Babies learn through repetition because it gives them many chances to “figure things out.” When babies tell you they are interested in a book or even in a picture in a book, give them as long as they want to look at the picture or to hear the story over and over.


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