Effective Practice Guides

Emergent Literacy: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-LC 9. Child attends to, repeats, and uses some rhymes, phrases, or refrains from stories or songs.
  • IT-LC 10. Child handles books and relates them to their stories or information.
  • IT-LC 11. Child recognizes pictures and some symbols, signs, or words.
  • IT-LC 12. Child comprehends meaning from pictures and stories.
  • IT-LC 13. Child makes marks and uses them to represent objects or actions.

Teaching Practices


When talking or signing with children, use their home or tribal language if you are able.

Ask families to share books, songs, and rhymes in home languages, tribal languages, and in English; use them often so children can master them. 
Five-month-old Emmanuel’s family comes from Haiti. His family child care provider wants to welcome Emmanuel and his family and help them feel comfortable during the blueberry-picking season in New Jersey. She asks them to suggest some songs that Emmanuel enjoys. They tell her they will teach her his favorite lullaby.

Encourage children to explore books and use drawing materials on their own and with adult assistance.
Eight-month-old Lyla crawls over to the rocking chair where Ms. Stremmel is sitting with Pam, 10 months. Lyla reaches in the book basket at Ms. Stremmel’s feet and pulls out one of her favorites, Global Babies. “Oh, that’s a good book for both of you,” says Ms. Stremmel. “You can both sit in my lap and help turn the pages.” Lyla hands the book to Ms. Stremmel, then raises both arms to be picked up so story time can begin.


Offer a wide variety of books and environmental print covering the languages, cultures, interests, and other unique characteristics of the children; display books in children’s reach.
Ms. Ames is conducting a home visit with Hannah, 32 months, and her father. He describes their busy weekend. “We’ve been working in the community vegetable garden, getting it ready for planting in a few weeks.” Ms. Ames asks, “Does Hannah go with you?” “Oh yes,” he responds. “She loves going to the garden.” Ms. Ames tells him about some children’s books about growing vegetables. “Hannah might like Rah, Rah, Radishes and Eating the Alphabet.” She offers to bring them for the next visit, adding, “If Hannah likes them, you can probably find them at the library.”

Provide large pieces of paper and large crayons and markers so children can experience making their own marks.
In the toddler room, Ms. Haley has taped a piece of butcher paper to the top of a table and placed a basket of jumbo markers in the middle. Eduardo is new to scribbling, so she shows him how to take the top off the marker and hold it so his hands won’t get too messy. “Here you go, Eduardo. Now you can make marks on your own.” Later, she returns to find Eduardo still enjoying this new experience. “Look at all the marks you made, Eduardo,” she says. “You filled up a big area of the paper.”


Provide books and pictures related to a child’s experience, such as learning to walk or being afraid of the dark.
Several toddlers are beginning to show they are ready to learn to use the potty. Using what she learned from conversations with the children’s families, Ms. Wade decides it’s time to put out some books on this major milestone for the toddlers to explore. She can read and discuss the books to learn more about who is ready for potty training and who is not quite there yet.

Make up and tell stories about a child or children in the group.
“Once upon a time,” begins Ms. Dawes, “Antonio was a tiny baby.” Hearing his name, 20-month-old Antonio smiles at Ms. Dawes and says, “Mas. Mas.” “You want to hear more? Of course. Baby Antonio lived with his mama and his papa and their dog, Flor. Antonio liked to shake his rattle and eat bananas—plátanos!”

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: December 3, 2019