What is Infant Literacy?


What is Infant literacy?

Early language development and literacy begins in a child’s first three years.  It is very closely linked with the child’s earliest experience with books and stories.  The interactions children have with books, paper and crayons are the building blocks for language, reading and writing development.  Early literacy development is a continuous development process that begins in the first years of life.  It is really important to note that early literacy does not mean teaching a child to read and write as this is not developmentally appropriate.  It is the natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books.  Allowing the child interact with books from an early age allows the child have rich literacy experiences.  Formal instruction at this age is counter productive and can be potentially damaging to future literacy and enjoyment of books.  


What Infants and Toddlers Can


Book handling: page turning and chewing


Looking and recognising: Children can interact with pictures in books, such as gazing, laughing at their favorite picture.  This shows recognition of and a beginning to understand pictures in books. 


Picture and story Comprehension: Behaviours such as imitating the character or event in a story is a really strong sign of comprehension and early language development. 


Story Reading Behaviors:  When the child begins to interact verbally such as babbling or running their fingers along the printed words. 


What to consider when using books with young children

Infants 0-6 mths: Books with simple, large pictures or designs with bright colours.  Stiff cardboard chunky books or fold out books that can be used in the crib. 


Infants 6-12 mths:  Hard board books with photos of other babies, chunky to touch and taste books, familiar objects the child might recognise, books for bath time that are waterproof, cuddle books, photos of the family. 


Young Toddlers 12-24 mths:  Think of books they can carry around easily, photos of children their age doing things they love to do, have some good night books with pictures, books saying hello from children and animals with a little printed word so they can begin to recognise shapes and letters.  Simple and predictable rhymes work really well and books of all shapes and sizes to keep their interest. 


Toddlers 2-3 years: Books that tell a simple story rhyming books, bed time books, books about counting, the alphabet, shapes and sizes, animal books, books of objects the child loves and their favourite TV characters inside. 


Fun ways to share books with babies and toddlers:

Have fun and read at lots of times each day

Show children the words run your finger to show you read from left to right

A couple of minutes each time is fine

Make the story come alive, play act and have some fun

Talk or sing about the pictures

Make it personal talk about your family or community in the story ….that looks like, sounds like, same as, big as, small as,

Let children turn the pages – make it part of the storytelling

Ask questions about the story and let the children ask questions too.  Have a conversation about the story and pictures.

Show children the cover page – build the excitement

Allow lots of time for the child to babble the story or imitate the characters and tell you the story in their way. 


Further Information available at:

Visit www.zerotothree.org/BrainWonders

Boston University Medical Center, Erikson Institute and Zero to Three joint project

Aistear Tipsheet – for parents, birth -18months

Wexford CYPSC have videos for parents on reading to your baby:


Also 2-3 year olds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMCSikQyFuw

And 3-5 year olds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfZ4VORiAN4