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“Oh, that is a waste of time, they are babies, they won’t even listen to you.”

That was the response I once got on a job to engage the under 2-year olds in Reading aloud sessions as I walked up to the teacher to introduce myself and talk about what I was there for.

I was quite taken aback by the fact that a teacher thought that reading to young children was of no benefit. It was disheartening, to say the least. Please don’t be that teacher.

Literacy in children doesn’t start at reciting the alphabet and end at reading. Literacy is beyond reciting the alphabet and learning to write them eventually. The totality of literacy is spread across the 4 languages/literacy skills: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing.

These simple activities below can help you start early in strengthening a child’s literacy skills:

  • Sing to your baby.
  • Play nursery rhymes too. Rhymes are actually underrated. Rhymes do more to the child than just entertainment. They also help soothe your baby. You’ll notice the child will stay still to listen once it starts playing or they hear the sound of your voice, and attempt to move his body to the rhythm. They’ll also stop ‘dancing’ when the music stops. For the child who has started babbling, he may also make humming sounds as if he’s singing along. These help to strengthen listening skills which is an important component of Literacy.
  • Read books to them. There’s often the tendency to ignore this because after all the child can not read yet. However, when you read to a child, you introduce them to the letter sounds even before they begin to learn the alphabet. You introduce them to words in books before they start to read. You make them naturally love books and grow into becoming lifelong learners because reading and accessing information will come naturally to them.
Teacher reading a book with a class of preschool children


  • Engage in random talks with the children. Chip in bits of explanation of your day to the children in your care. In a classroom of toddlers, don’t just leave them sitting at their desks or just eating and sleeping all day. You can say, “It’s drizzling, shall we go outside and feel the rain.” OR “Ms. O is so hungry right now. She wants to have her lunch!” OR “Give me a minute. Let me help baby E to her potty.” Random talks with children help their brains to understand that words are for communicating your thoughts, and when they associate your words to the corresponding action, it prepares them for speaking too.
  • When the child starts talking, Help her extend her 1-word sentences by responding with a fuller version of the sentences. For example, if she says “car”, you can extend it by saying, “Yes, it’s a big red car.”
  • For the older child, say a 3-year old, Ask questions and encourage him to respond in full sentences. A trick to doing this is to ask open-ended questions rather than Yes-No sentences. For E.g. Rather than “Should you pack up after playing?” you ask, “Why do you think you should pack up after playing?”
  • Request a narrative of his day to encourage him to use words and make sentences. E.g. Can you tell me about school today? This helps to build a child’s speaking/communication skills.
  • You can also ask questions after watching their favorite shows or reading a book. Act like you’re genuinely curious and interested in the story or show she is watching. Try not to let your questions come off as an assessment, rather ask like you really don’t know and would love to follow the storyline. You’ll find they’ll be eager to ‘help you understand’ while unconsciously getting to use words more.
  • Encourage arts (drawing, coloring, painting) as a way of expressing their thoughts, and telling a story. The arts may not look any exciting to you but it’s a treasure to them. Do not trash without their consent, please. Sometimes they may even attempt to do a narration of the artwork, and that’s super amazing.

  • Encourage random writing too. This is a great literacy activity for 5-year-olds. Provide a sheet and let them write a story that comes to mind or you provide a topic they can randomly write on.

So yes, teach the alphabet, encourage writing, but these highlighted activities above will even help the child attain literacy development better. A child whose literacy skills are honed and developed will be able to confidently engage using the right words, hold conversations with an adult, and of course express through writing too.

Picture Credit: Google Images

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