Early Literacy

Early Literacy Activity Calendars

Please enjoy these FREE activity calendars that will allow you to practice early literacy skills every day with your children! Be sure to check out the second page for songs and book suggestions! Come back each month for a new calendar.

These resources are provided by the Library of Michigan's Ready to Read Michigan program.

What is Early Literacy?

Early literacy does not mean that we are teaching young children how to read. Instead, it means helping children develop the skills the will need to become successful readers. Early literacy activities build rich language skills such as vocabulary, self-expression, and understanding (comprehension). These skills help children make sense of printed words when they start reading. 

There are five early literacy practices that will help children get ready to read. Below, find some information about each of the five practices, as well as activities you can do with your child to develop his or her language skills:

Talking                    |                     Singing                    |                    Reading                    |                    Writing                    |                    Playing


Talking with your child is one of the best and easiest ways to develop language and early literacy skills! Engaging in conversations with your child, even when they are very young, helps them learn to express their thoughts, what words mean, and how to gain new information about the world. It also provides them with a rich foundation of knowledge they can draw from as they become independent readers. The more your child knows about the world, the more words they will recognize on a printed page or digital screen.

Ways to engage with your child:

  • Ask open-ended questions! These are questions which can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no". 
    • Instead of, "did you have fun at the park?" ask, "What was your favorite thing at the park today? Why?"
    • "What do you think will happen next in the story?"
  •  If your child says a word, add more words. Examples:
    • If your child says "ball", you can reply "Yes, that is a small, yellow ball. We can play with the ball by rolling it back and forth, or we can take it outside to practice throwing it to each other. How else can we play with the ball?"
    • If your child says "milk",  you can reply "Would you like a cup of milk? Where do we keep the milk? Can you show me where it is? Milk is really cold and yummy."
  • ​Talk about what you're doing while you're doing it. Examples:
    • ​"It's time to make dinner! First we need to gather all of our ingredients, then get the pots and pans. Can you help me measure the ingredients and put them in the pot?"
    • "We're going to drive to the grocery store! Let's count how many windmills we see on our way there. Once we get there, we will get lots of yummy food to eat at home. What's your favorite kind of fruit?"

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Singing with your child helps them hear how words can be broken down into smaller parts, both syllables (a single, unbroken sound of a spoken or written word - for example, the word "water" has two syllabes: "wa" and "ter") and phonemes (the sound in a language which has its own distinct sound - for example, the "c" in the word "car"). Learning this skill at a young age will help them sound out words as they begin to read on their own. Songs are also excellent for teaching new vocabulary and concepts.

Ways to engage with your child:

  • Sing lullabies at bedtime.
  • Play children's music while doing chores at home or running errands. Sing along with the songs (even if you think you're a "bad" singer!).
  • Many children's books illustrate children's songs, or remix the lyrics. Ask a librarian to help you find books you can sing with your child!

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Reading is one of the best ways to get your child ready to read on their own! Similar to singing, the language in books is much richer than the language we use in daily conversations. This means reading helps expand your child's vocabulary. The more you read with your child, the more "rare words" they will hear in early childhood. This will help them recognize more words in print when they do start reading - and this, in turn, will help them understand what they read.

Ways to engage with your child:

  • Read with your child every day!
  • Read signs while you're driving or at the store.
  • Point out words and letters while you're reading - even the act of "underlining" the words with your finger while you read will help your child make the connection between spoken words and written words.

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Writing activities help children learn letter names and sounds. Even very young children can learn writing skills through scribbling, drawing, and coloring. Giving your child the opportunity to write, scribble, or draw helps them learn that marks on paper represent spoken language. This knowledge will help them decode words on pages and screens when they start reading! Drawing pictures helps young children connect symbols with words, and toddlers can learn pre-writing skills through their scribbling.

Ways to engage with your child:

  • Have them help you write a grocery list.
  • Ask them to draw a picture of their bedroom or of their family.
  • Help them write name tags for their stuffed animals. 
  • For very young children or toddlers, draw simple lines or shapes for them to trace or copy.
  • Provide lots of opportunities to put pen (or crayons, markers, or colored pencils) to paper! 

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Are you surprised to see play on this list? Play is an absolutely essential skill for children! Children learn to express themselves when they play. Imaginative play will provide them with opporutnities to talk through feelings and develop creative thinking skills. They also discover the meaning of words and how to tell stories, which builds reading comprehension. Plus, when children learn new words through play, they will more easily recognize them in print when they start reading.

Ways to engage with your child:

  • Play dress-up with old clothes, hats, and jewelry
  • Using stuffed animals or puppets, act out favorite stories. For example, you can retell Goldilocks and the Three Bears with three stuffed animals and a doll!
  • Play with blocks or LEGOs to create castles, skyscrapers, race tracks - whatever you'd like! Have your child tell a story around what you're building.
  • Build a blanket fort that you can tell stories in.

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This information was adapted from Lexington Public Library.