Early Years Literacy

This page is for adults who want to help their children to learn early literacy skills. These are the skills children will need to have before they can read on their own. It’s a little bit like building a house — you need a strong base, or foundation, before the house can be built. Early literacy skills are a foundation for learning to read. These skills can also help children in other areas, such as problem solving, creativity, memory, and maths. Best of all, you can help them to learn these skills through playing and having lots of fun.

You don’t need to teach your children to read — that’s what school is for! However, as parents and caregivers, you can give your children a big head start. The best way you can help your child develop early literacy skills, and therefore give them a strong foundation for all of their future learning, is to READ, TALK, SING, and PLAY with them every day.

  • READ

Reading together for just 10–15 minutes every day will give your child an awareness of books and how they work, of letters and how they make up words, and help to build vocabulary. It is also a great bonding time. Make sure that your reading time is always fun — don’t make it a battle! If one of you isn’t in the mood, it’s ok to put a book down after a couple of pages and come back to it later.

For very young babies (under six months), high contrast board books with black and white or just a couple of colours are best, as colour perception isn’t fully developed at this point. Babies are drawn to faces, so books with lots of faces will be a hit. As they get older, you can explore other board books, which are sturdy with thick cardboard pages and are fairly baby-proof and baby-safe. Once your child has a slightly longer concentration span, perhaps around 10–12 months, you can move into picture books.

Not sure what to read with your child? Ask your friendly YPRL staff for some suggestions.

  • TALK

Your child needs to have lots of interaction and stimulus as their young brain develops, especially in their first year of life. Even while they’re babies, chatting to your child about things that happen and things that are around them increases their language skills. Just because they don’t answer doesn’t mean they’re not listening! As they get older, talking with you builds their confidence, their sentence structure, and their fluency.

  • SING

You don’t need to be a good singer to sing with your child! They think you’re a rock star even if you’re completely out of tune. Singing offers lots of early literacy benefits including rhythm and repetition. When we sing simple songs, like nursery rhymes, we slow down our words and sound out each syllable. This helps very young children realise that the different sounds we make come together in different ways to become words. As they get older, the rhythm and repetition help them to remember short rhymes, build vocabulary, and speak more clearly.

  • PLAY

Children love to play, and creative play is actually a key part of early literacy development that you can help with. Learning to tell a story — or narrative skill — comes through acting out the stories and rhymes that you know, telling stories with puppets or soft toys, and playing pretend games and dress ups. Talking through stories and games also improves speech fluency and vocabulary. Encourage imaginative and creative play every day, and join in when you can.

Top Literacy Tips for Parents and Caregivers:

Did You Know...

You're never too young to have your very own library card!

Start your child's love affair with reading and libraries early by setting them up with a membership online or in any of our library branches.

YPRL no longer charge any overdue fines!

No need to worry about racking up big fees if you return your items a couple of days late, or if you've got a big stack of picture books and one goes temporarily missing.

Online Storytimes

During lockdowns (and beyond) our wonderful storytime hosts performed, recorded and shared regular storytime session videos via our Facebook Page.

Do you need a storytime? We have got you covered. Simply visit our Facebook page, click on 'Videos' and explore all the different storytimes read by your local librarians - there's plenty! 


Auslan storytime

City of Sydney has published a range of videos for Auslan and English storytimes. These videos feature Deaf presenters and support English literacy for deaf and hard of hearing children, while also providing exposure to Deaf culture for hearing children.
You can view all these videos on the City of Sydney YouTube channel.

Useful Links:

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