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Literacy in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers. TN State Improvement Grant Preschool Literacy Training Project East Tennessee State University. In This Session We Will:. Define literacy for infants and toddlers

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literacy in the lives of infants and toddlers

Literacy in the Lives of Infants and Toddlers

TN State Improvement Grant

Preschool Literacy Training Project

East Tennessee State University

in this session we will
In This Session We Will:
  • Define literacy for infants and toddlers
  • Discuss developmentally appropriate literacy strategies for caregivers and families
  • Discuss criteria for choosing books for infants and toddlers
  • Role play talking and reading with infants and toddlers
  • Receive a reference list of books for infants and toddlers
defining curriculum for infants and toddlers
Defining Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers
  • Curriculum for infants and toddlers is what you do every day
  • It includes all routines and activities
  • It should be flexible and follow the child’s lead
  • It is more individualized than preschool curriculum
but how can you teach literacy if they can t even talk

“But how can you teach literacy if they can’t even talk?”

By understanding what roles literacy plays in the daily lives of infants and toddlers

how does literacy fit in
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Receptive Language – Talk to Them
    • Brain research shows that the first three years are a window of opportunity for language development
    • By talking with infants and toddlers during daily routines and activities, caregivers expose them to new vocabulary and help “wire” their brain for language
how does literacy fit in6
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Expressive Language – Hear and Respond
    • The first time a newborn cries and has his/her needs met by a caregiver, the baby starts to learn that language is used to communicate with others
    • When a caregiver recognizes the very young child’s attempts to communicate verbally and responds, the child is more likely to continue the attempts, which increases expressive language development
how does literacy fit in7
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Book Handling – From Mouthing to Page Turning
    • Infants use all of their senses to explore books and make sense of what they can do with them
    • Caregivers model book handling by reading out loud to infants and toddlers and letting them help to turn pages
    • Older infants and toddlers will start to handle books in more conventional ways by turning pages back and forth as they look at pictures
how does literacy fit in8
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Reading Books – A New Language
    • When caregivers read stories or say nursery rhymes, infants begin to hear a difference between conversational speech and “book speech”
    • When older infants and toddlers turn the pages of a book and babble/label pictures/tell a story, they are beginning to understand the function of books
how does literacy fit in9
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Fine Motor Skills – Practice Using the Hands
    • Infants and toddlers need opportunities throughout the day to explore with their hands
    • Caregivers who provide lots of hands-on exploration allow infants and toddlers to learn through their senses and develop the fine motor skills that will eventually be used in writing
how does literacy fit in10
How Does Literacy Fit In?
  • Daily Routines – Language-Rich Environment
    • Caregivers who describe what they are doing during routines help infants and toddlers know what to expect and expose them to language throughout the day
    • Use of transition songs or rhymes during routines helps infants and toddlers discriminate “book talk” from conversation, and is a precursor to being able to listen to books read aloud
    • Caregivers who make favorite books available during diaper changes, naps, and other routines begin to instill the idea that reading is a source of enjoyment and should be a daily occurrence
“To choose books for a baby or toddler, we need to know about what the child can do” .
  • -Judith A. Schickedanz,
  • Much More Than the ABCs
birth to 3 months
Birth to 3 Months
  • Need head support when sitting on lap
  • Spend lots of time looking around
  • Vision is fuzzy
  • See best at 7-8 inches away from face
  • Notice patterns with large details
  • Prefer patterns with sharp contrast in colors
  • Grasping is a reflex, not voluntary
  • Respond to child-directed speech
  • First language is crying; cooing is added by 3 months
literacy strategies
Literacy Strategies
  • Basic needs take up most of the newborn’s daily schedule
  • It is difficult to hold a book and support the infant’s head at the same time
  • Books can be displayed along the crib and on the floor where infants are active; but do not overstimulate by surrounding the baby with books
  • Caregivers can introduce “book speech” by reciting nursery rhymes and chants from memory
choosing books for infants toddlers
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • Birth to 3 Months
    • Must be interesting visually
    • Large, simple pictures with a contrasting background (ex. Black and white patterning)
    • Books should stand up independently (cardboard)
    • Fold-out pages can be stretched out to make one long panel
4 to 6 months
4 to 6 Months
  • Able to reach and grasp, but thumb is not yet opposable
  • Will mouth everything
  • Like to bang and wave objects; very focused on using their hands
  • Usually start to sit up by 6 months
  • Add consonants to cooing
  • Make “raspberry” sounds
  • Can have “conversations” with caregivers by taking turns making sounds
literacy strategies16
Literacy Strategies
  • Caregivers can now easily hold the baby and the book
  • Infants will explore the book with mouth and hands more often than visually
  • Caregivers can provide a toy for the infant’s mouth and hands to increase the time spent looking at the book
  • Caregivers can add actions to the familiar nursery rhymes and chants to make the process an interactive game (ex. “This Little Piggy”)
choosing books for infants toddlers17
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • 4 to 6 Months
    • Cloth and vinyl books are most appropriate for this age because they are easy to grasp, can be mouthed, and are washable
    • Infants still enjoy simple pictures with contrasting backgrounds
    • Cloth books may fade during washing, so pick especially bright illustrations
7 to 9 months
7 to 9 Months
  • Now able to use both hands to manipulate an object
  • Can turn pages of certain types of books
  • Very interested in what objects will do, leading to crushing, ripping, etc.
literacy strategies19
Literacy Strategies
  • Caregivers can now share a book with infants for longer time periods
  • Book reading is primarily labeling the pictures
  • Babies now enjoy books with rhythmic language; books with a story and plot are not interesting yet
  • Infants may want to hold and explore the book during the reading
  • Caregivers should let the baby manipulate the book and continue to talk about the pictures, instead of trying to keep the book out of the baby’s hands
  • Caregivers should not try to force the infant to let them finish the book; focus on the process of exploration
choosing books for infants toddlers20
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • 7 to 9 Months
    • Choose cardboard books more often than cloth or vinyl; cardboard pages are easier for the infant to turn independently
    • Books with paper pages will most likely be torn, crumpled, and mouthed and should not be used independently; caregivers can read them aloud and store in a safe place
    • Little Chunky books are designed for easy page-turning
9 to 12 months
9 to 12 Months
  • Fine motor skills become more developed
  • By 12 months can probably put large pegs in holes and pull pop beads apart
  • May start walking and/or utter first word
  • Receptive language is about 50 words; expressive language is 1-2 words
  • May bring books and toys to caregiver to initiate activity
  • Starts teething
literacy strategies22
Literacy Strategies
  • Provide a teething ring to decrease book chewing for teething infants
  • Caregivers can follow a 4-step process to scaffold during the book reading:
    • 1. Get the infant’s attention – “Look at that!”
    • 2. Ask a labeling question – “What do you see?”
    • 3. Wait for a response, or provide a response if the baby does not answer in some way
    • 4. Provide feedback; expand on the baby’s response
choosing books for infants toddlers23
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • 9 to 12 Months
    • Infants are now more interested in the book’s contents than its physical properties
    • Choose books with pictures of objects and events that are familiar to the infant’s world
    • Cardboard books are still the most appropriate for the infant’s hands
    • Avoid stories for preschoolers replicated in cardboard form
12 to 18 months
12 to 18 Months
  • Expressive language increases greatly
  • Very interested in naming things
  • By 18 months may be using 2-word sentences
  • Uses holophrases – one word to convey different meanings
  • Starts using objects for pretend play
literacy strategies25
Literacy Strategies
  • Children of this age still like pictures to be named, and they will often repeat what the caregiver says
  • Caregivers can give more details and facts about the picture after labeling it
  • When reading predictable books, such as nursery rhymes, caregivers should slow down to give the child a chance to chime in
  • Caregivers should be flexible during the reading to allow the child to go find familiar objects that are in the book
choosing books for infants toddlers26
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • 12 to 18 Months
    • Infants now enjoy books with familiar characters and familiar roles (mommies or daddies, other children, animals)
    • Since they are just beginning to sing, they may enjoy books with songs and musical books
    • By 18 months, toddlers may be interested in books with actual stories that relate to their own experience
    • Choose “theme books” with related pages and a few words, but no plot
19 to 30 months
19 to 30 Months
  • Talks in sentences more frequently
  • Is increasingly able to answer questions about recent events
  • Interest in how things work increases
  • Asks lots of “why” questions
  • Pretend play often happens in sequences
  • Often wants to be independent and dependent at the same time
literacy strategies28
Literacy Strategies
  • Caregivers can have extensive book conversations with older toddlers
  • These conversations should relate what is happening in the book to the child’s own experiences
  • Caregivers should ask questions that give the child opportunities to share thoughts and feelings
choosing books for infants toddlers29
Choosing Books for Infants & Toddlers
  • 19 to 30 Months
    • Toddlers now enjoy actual stories about things that might be happening in their own lives (ex. using the potty, separation anxiety, bed time, trying new foods)
    • Choose books with pictures on every page and a small amount of text
    • Choose books with text closely related to the pictures
    • Choose predictable books so toddlers can guess what will happen next or chime in with repetitive phrases
role playing activity
Role Playing Activity
  • Get into groups of 3-4
  • Send a group member to choose one book
  • In your group, decide which age group this book would be most suitable for and why
  • Discuss what literacy strategies you would use to share the book with a child in that age group
  • Model these strategies within your group
  • Volunteers share with the larger group
imagination library
Imagination Library
  • Dolly Parton’s program to provide 1 free book each month from birth to age 5 in participating counties
  • Governor Bredesen’s Books From Birth Foundation has made it possible for all 95 Tennessee counties to participate
  • Parents/guardians fill out and return a registration brochure for their county
  • Visit to find contact information for each county
about sig
About SIG
  • The Preschool Literacy Training Project is part of the TN State Improvement Grant (SIG), which provides wrap-around services for Reading First schools and preschools that feed into those schools across the state
  • The Preschool Literacy Training Project offers parent workshops, curriculum support, and professional development opportunities for participating teachers
  • For more information, please contact Alissa Ongie at: 423-439-7841 or
  • - TN SIG web site
sources used
Sources Used
  • Schickedanz, J.A. (1999). Much More Than the ABCs: The Early Stages of Reading and Writing. NAEYC, Washington, DC.
  • Dombro, A.L., Colker, L. J., & Dodge, D.T. (1997). The Creative Curriculum for Infants & Toddlers, revised ed. Teaching Strategies, Inc., Washington, DC.
  • Neuman, S.B., Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2000). Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. NAEYC, Washington, DC.
  • - Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation web site
  • - Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library web site