Early Literacy: Reading with 0-2 Year Olds

Learn how to introduce your children to books and help build a strong foundation for their reading skills.

By Michelle Anthony, PhD



Early Literacy: Reading with 0-2 Year Olds

Reading foundation skills begin at birth, when a baby becomes attuned to his or her native language. Even newborns are soothed by the rhythmic sounds of soothing lullabies or nursery rhymes—in essence baby’s first stories. At around 4 months old, babies show interest in books, exploring them with their mouths or by using them like toys (e.g., throwing them). This is good! Invest in sturdy board books, cloth books, and bath books to allow your child to integrate “reading” with playing. Between 6-12 months, babies will be more interested in story listening. Typically, a baby this age can attend to a single book for up to a minute, for some, possibly two.

Changing focus and switching books is the name of the game at this age! Make book-time play time, and continuously “invite” your child to explore the pages for a few minutes a day, if possible. Even active babies enjoy quiet snuggle time with beloved caregivers! For some good word play books, check out the best books for sounds and wordplay.

There are a number of ways for parents to make reading more animated. Sprinkle in American Sign Language (ASL) signs as you read (check out Signing Smart: My First Signs or What Do You See? for touch-and-feel children’s board books with signs interspersed). Go with your child’s interest: notice what she looks at and talk about those items; ask her questions she can answer to get more engaged in the book; add in sound effects and animated voices as well! Be prepared to read favorites time and again. Invite your child to participate by pointing, slapping, cooing, signing, or speaking whenever he can. Make reading a part of as many routines as possible, but remember that literacy can take place outside of books—in games, songs, finger plays, etc.! For example, this online activity becomes a literacy builder when you help your child make predictions about the image that will appear by listening to the words in the “magic spell:” 

Get interactive books your child can explore, such as those with lift-the-flap, (safe) removable pieces, or noise buttons (check out this list for some ideas). Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs, inviting your child to sing or sign along. For some fun online rhymes and stories, check out Speakaboos.com or this list of nursery rhymes. Keep books on low shelves so that your baby can easily reach them, and introduce a variety of different kinds of books—not just different genres, but also formats: iPad, web-based, baby magazines, phone-apps, finger-plays, etc. 

Alphabet Recognition
Milestones & Expectations
Age 1
Age 2
Child Development and Behavior
Environmental Print
Early Reading