baby laying on pillow reading a book.

Are you aware of how important building literacy skills are at a young age? Stay confident in your ability to establish a strong literacy foundation so you can be the envy of all of the other mamas on the playground.

After reading this post, you will be able to be the expert on literacy skills in your Mommy and Me group and explain to all the other mamas:

  • why infant literacy skills are important and an indicator of academic success
  • how to support the brain in acquiring infant literacy skills from birth
  • how you can incorporate simple tweaks to your daily routine so that you can set a strong foundation for infant literacy skills at home

Need advice for literacy skills for toddlers? Check out this post.

This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I personally use, trust, and love and think you will love too! Using these links provide me with a small commission and help support this blog, but at no extra cost to youTo learn more, read my Policies page.

Why You Should Care about Infant Literacy Skills

You’ve always heard that reading to your baby is important, but do you know why? Sure you want to start prepping them to be able to read, yet they are only an infant…how much could they really be absorbing?

Short answer: A LOT! You are your child’s first teacher. Learning to read and the foundations of literacy happen well before Kindergarten and even Preschool.

A lot of reading success is dependent upon exposure to a variety of vocabulary. Of course, the more you speak to your baby throughout the day helps with vocabulary development. You can do this through narrating tasks out loud as you complete them. For example, if you are folding laundry, do it with your baby! You can talk about how you are folding the soft, fluffy towel that we use to dry our hands in the bathroom.

What does this have to do with reading? One of the best ways to build vocabulary is to read a variety of books. Children will be exposed to more words across a variety of topics through books than through conversations alone. It’s not every day that arctic animals and rainforests come up in everyday conversations.

How You Can Support the Brain in Acquiring Infant Literacy Skills

Every single sound your baby hears from birth is being absorbed by their brains and being used to make meaning of the language around them. Even though they cannot understand you when they are first born, they are still receptive to the language being used around them.

You can support the acquisition of Early Literacy Skills in infants by speaking to them often, singing songs to them, and reading or telling them stories with rhymes. The more language they hear, the more vocabulary they are able to acquire. Singing songs and telling stories with rhymes helps to develop the foundations of fluency and phonemic awareness, both of which are important early reading skills.

How Early Literacy Skills are an Indicator of Academic Success

baby sitting on man's lap reading a book together

There is a lot of research circulating about how early literacy skills are actually a predictor for academic success. A child’s future ability to read and write is dependent on their fluency in speaking, listening, and understanding language.

AND children who develop literacy skills at a younger age are more successful when they reach elementary school. This doesn’t necessarily mean reading as a 2-year-old…or even a 4-year-old. When I talk about early literacy skills, I’m talking about exposure to all things reading. Take for example a statistic that has been circulating the internet for a while:

A sample child who reads 20 minutes per night will be exposed to 1.8 million words per year and score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. Comparatively, another sample child read only 5 minutes per day, is exposed to 282,000 words per year, and scores in the 50th percentile on standardized tests (source).

Children who read more acquire more vocabulary, which helps them become more successful academically.

Ways to Support Infant Literacy

So far we have talked about the WHY of infant literacy skills. Now, let’s get into the HOW.

This post may contain affiliate links. I only recommend products that I personally use, trust, and love and think you will love too! Using these links provide me with a small commission and help support this blog, but at no extra cost to youTo learn more, read my Policies page.

1. Read Every Single Day

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if your baby just popped out of the womb. It is never too early to start reading. Read more about how to read with your baby.

Your baby doesn’t need to be able to see pictures in a book in order to get something valuable from reading out loud. Just hearing your voice is enough. Like I mentioned earlier, exposure to vocabulary, even at a very young, is impactful on a child’s future academic success.

There is no better place to get access to a variety of vocabulary, with picture support and in context, than inside a book.

Here are some of my favorite books for babies that provide rich vocabulary:

2. Let Baby Play with Books

Just as it is important for baby to hear your voice, baby should have the opportunity to interact with books as well. Invest in some durable books so that baby can manipulate them with ease. This means hitting them, banging them, chewing on them, flipping pages, etc.

The point of baby playing with books is for exposure. They don’t have to know what a cover or is for them to explore it. The way that babies are learning at this age is through sensory stimulation. They are taking in everything they can through their senses (mostly by putting things in their mouth), but just allowing baby to love books in a variety of ways helps them to learn.

Here are some of my favorite durable books for baby to explore:

3. Make a Routine

Reading as part of your bedtime and/or naptime routines can be a beautiful tradition for you and your family. There sometimes can be nothing more comforting than snuggling up with your baby at the end of a long, exhausting day and just taking a moment to spend some valuable quality time with your little one.

This is the perfect time to get in your 20 minutes of reading per day. Plus, having reading as part of your bedtime routine can help your little one wind down from their day and provide cues that it’s time to sleep.

Here are some of my favorite bedtime board books:

4. Reread Favorite Books

Yes, you may be dreading reading Goodnight Moon for the 12 millionth time (I think I could recite the whole book by heart now…), but it is actually really beneficial to reread favorite books.

First, reading what your baby wants to read instead of what you are picking out for them helps them grow some independence of choice and encourages their love for reading. Now, I’m not saying your 4 month old is going to pick out the book they want you to read, but for older babies, you may start seeing their favorites pop up in their choices.

Second, rereading books allows them to become more familiar with the vocabulary in those books, which is especially helpful when language is forming.

There are many more reasons, but another important reason is that the more a child hears a story, the more they will understand it. This helps build a foundation of comprehension while your baby is still a baby.

5. Get Animated

The more expression you have and the more animated you are while reading to your baby, the more enjoyable the story will be. We all remember that teacher who lectured in a monotonous tone and made us bored out of our minds. Well, we don’t want to do that to our babies!

Over exaggerate your voice while reading. Have highs and lows in your pitches, whispers and mini-shouts in your volume, and get creative with character voices. Your baby will be engaged, want you to keep reading, and look forward to whenever you pull out a book to read.

6. Be a Role Model

As hard as it is to find the time, you should make it a point for your baby to see you read. Pick up a newspaper, magazine, or a favorite book around them so they get used to seeing you reading. They will get to a phase where they will want to copy everything you do. So especially if you want to put limits on screen time, pick up a book instead of your phone or tablet. It is important to lay the foundation now for being a positive reading role model.

7. Have some Fun!

Make reading a really fun time that your baby will look forward to. Turn a book into a finger puppet show. Play an ABC game after reading an ABC book. Play peekaboo while you are reading a pop-up book. There are so many ways to make reading memories…get creative!

Check out my ultimate list of books for baby’s first library.

Common Questions about Infant Literacy

1. At What Age Does Literacy Development Usually Begin?

Literacy begins to develop right from birth, but the most formative years are the first three years of life. Your baby is a sponge so any exposure to literacy skills is absorbed at any young age. Even reading to a 2 week old is laying a foundation for early literacy skills.

2. What are Early Literacy Skills?

Early Literacy Skills are the skills that lay the foundation for reading. These skills include concepts about print (which are left-to-right directionality, knowing the parts of the books, knowing what a letter is, etc.), phonemic awareness (the ability break down and manipulate phonemes or individual sounds), alphabetic principle (learning letters and their sounds), narrative skills (the ability to narrate events in sequence), print motivation (the desire to read), and vocabulary (the development of language and ability to learn new words).

baby sitting on white sheet reading a book.

Read, Read, Read!

Nothing is more important than laying a foundation for your child’s literacy skills early. You should go out of your way to be a positive reading role model for your child and set that time aside to read with them every single day. You have the power to make your child love reading and it’s never too early to start.

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