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Emergent Literacy: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s emerging literacy skills is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support infants’ and toddlers’ emerging literacy skills.1
    • When sharing books with infants and toddlers, help the children to recognize and understand what is in the book by:
      • Pointing to pictures as they are named
      • Using facial expressions, vocal tones, and gesturing to illustrate the meaning of words
      • Allowing children to turn pages
      • Asking children closed- and open-ended questions about the pictures or story
      • Encouraging children to complete a sentence in a predictable or rhyming story
      • Helping children make connections to the story or book
      • Demonstrating interest in the book
    • Use many different kinds words (e.g., objects, actions, feelings, categories) to connect children to objects, events, and ideas in the book.
    • Use sentences and narratives that help children understand stories and relationships between objects and events or how ideas are organized.
    • Foster positive attitudes toward reading by holding or cuddling with children when books are read.
    • Encourage children to participate by asking questions, using intonation, etc.
    • Provide easy, daily access to a variety of books, including those in children’s home or tribal languages (e.g., books about familiar and unusual topics, books that are lyrical, books that name only pictures, books that include stories).
    • Encourage children to handle books.
    • Point out and talk about the meaning of labels, signs, logos, and other symbols in the environment or setting.
    • Provide opportunities for children to show they understand what familiar labels, signs, logos, and other symbols mean.2
    • Provide children writing materials and support for using them.3
  • These practices may also be used to support dual language learners (DLLs) in developing their home language and to expose them to English. For more information, see:
  • In home-based programs, consider identifying and including broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Encourage children to participate by asking questions, using intonation, etc., you might ask your coach/supervisor to observe and record your story reading. Together, you can observe how often you ask questions or change your tone of voice and how children respond.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s emerging literacy skills?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 42, C.5, 43, C.6, 44, C.7, 58, D.7.

2National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness (NCCLR), “The Big Five, The Big Picture: Book Knowledge and Print Concepts” (Washington, DC: Author, n.d.), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/big5-big-picture-book-knowledge-eng.pdf.

3National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness (NCCLR), “The Big Five, The Big Picture: Alphabet Knowledge and Early Writing” (Washington, DC: Author, n.d.), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/big5-big-picture-alphabet-knowledge-eng.pdf.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 3, 2018