All posts tagged "Month of the Young Child"

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Choosing the Right Book for Your Child: Infants (0 to 1 year)

It can be scary stepping into the library and seeing shelves upon shelves of books and trying to decide which one is right for your child.


This is a brief guide on selecting age appropriate books for your infant. Note that these are suggestions. All children are different. Children of the same age will handle the same book differently. Don’t give up after the first reading. A child’s brain is constantly in motion; thinking, analyzing and deciphering the text and illustrations they see. Repetition is one of the key ways that children learn. Even if you read the same book every single day to your infant, you are putting them on the path towards literacy and a love of learning.


Choosing books for your infant: 0 to 12 months


What to look for:

  • Books that are simple, with large pictures or designs with bright colors. 
  • Books that are high contrast books (black and white) for newborns.
  • Books that are made of cloth and soft vinyl books with simple pictures of people or familiar objects that can go in the bath or get washed.
  • Books with photos of babies and pictures of things they see every day - balls, bottles, chairs, dogs.
  • Sturdy, brightly-colored board books to touch and taste.
  • Small books sized for small hands.
  • Sturdy pages that can be propped up or spread out in the crib or on a blanket.
  • Small plastic photo albums of family and friends.
  • Books about saying hello and goodbye.
  • Books with only a few words on the page.
  • Wordless books, improvise your own story.
  • Goodnight books for bedtime.
  • Pop-up and lift-the-flap books.


Quick tips about reading to your infant:

  • Read to your child from day one, but at four months of age, babies become interested in objects and will begin to interact with books.
  • Around 8 or 9 months, your baby will be able to turn the pages of a book by themselves.
  • Point to the words when you are reading to your infant. Pointing to the words lets the infant learn that literacy is a combination of language and text.
  • Put board books out on the play mat during tummy time.
  • It’s OK if your infant tries to eat the book.
  • It’s OK if your child plays/throws with the book.
  • When your child starts pulling your books off the bookshelf, create a shelf for their books. Let them pull and explore their own books.
  • Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs to your infant.
  • Keep books everywhere. In the diaper bag, in the car, in every room of the house.


Some titles & authors to get you started:


Spots, Feathers, and Curly TailsBlack on White coverFreight Train coverGoodnight Moon coverMy Very First Mother Goose coverWhere is Baby's Belly Button coverCounting Kisses cover

Early Literacy Foundations Part 6: Letter Knowledge

In this sixth blog post, we will explore Letter Knowledge.

For previous blog posts in this series, please see Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

What is letter knowledge?

Letter knowledge includes recognizing the letters of the alphabet and knowing their names.


Why is it important?

The first step toward developing phonological awareness (an awareness of letter sounds), starts with letter knowledge. These skills are necessary for learning how to read.  


How can I help my child develop letter knowledge?

Activities that have your child focus on one letter at a time are great for building letter knowledge.


  • Make letter flashcards together and then use them to talk about each letter of the alphabet.
  • Have a "letter of the day" so you can focus on one letter each day and talk about it in depth. Print out the letter as large as you can and display it in your home. This will give that letter a presence in your home and allow your child to become familiar with its shape.  
  • When looking at alphabet books together, have your child trace over the letter with their finger. Help them follow the lines and talk about the shape of the letters.
  • Pointing out letters in the world around you is a great way to bring attention to individual letters. It's often good to start with the first letter of the child's name, for example: "Look there's an S, on the Stop sign, just like the S in Sam!"




It's never too early to begin working on early literacy skills with your child! Here are some hardpage books that would be great for reading with your baby:


cover for abc bookCover for everyday alphabetCover for baby abc



Books that focus on one letter at a time are great for teaching letter knowledge. Check out these books in the "My Sound Box" series:



 cover for my d sound boxcover for my v sound boxcover for my m sound box


In conjunction with books, DVDs such as Leap Frog Letter Factory are great for learning about letters. Other books like Kindergarten Alphabet Activities and Spectrum Learning Letters are also great for  building and expanding letter knowledge.


 cover for letter factoryCover for Alphabet Activitiescover for spectrum learning letters



To experience the six early literacy skills in action, visit your local branch for a storytime, music and movement class or early learning readiness program. If you'd like help finding more information and resources about developing early literacy skills with your child, drop in to any one of our 23 locations and ask for a librarian!

Early Literacy Foundations Part 5: Print Awareness

In this fifth blog post, we will explore Print Awareness.

For previous blog posts in this series, please see Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four

What is print awareness?

Print awareness means being aware of printed text and understanding that the text has meaning. It also includes knowing how to handle a book.


Why is it important?

Recognizing that those shapes on the page are actually words and not just part of the picture, is an important first step in learning how to read.


How can I help my child develop print awareness?


Book Handling

Before reading together, explain the different parts of a book.

  • front cover
  • back of the book
  • right side up vs. upside down
  • point out the title and author

Eventually your child will be able to answer questions such as:

  • Where's the front cover?
  • Where's the title?
  • Which way does the book go?
  • Can you open the book and turn to the first page?


While reading together it is important to fingertrack (drag your finger underneath the words as you read them). This will start to develop your child's awareness that what you are saying is what is represented by the words on the page.


Everyday Life

Point out print that exists in the real world:

  • Road signs
  • Billboards
  • Price tags
  • Receipts

Create a print rich environment around the home by labeling household objects.

For example, print and tape up signs for:

  • Window
  • Refrigerator
  • Cabinet
  • Chair

Turn everyday activities into opportunities to reinforce print awareness.

  • Before grocery shopping trips, write a list together and explain what you are doing. "We need milk, so I am going to write milk here on our shopping list." You can even spell the word out as you write.
  • When eating out, explain that the words on the menu represent different food choices.
  • Use a recipe to cook something together. Say it aloud as you go through the recipe step by step, and have your child help you collect the ingredients.

All of these activities are great ways to help your child understand that those shapes are letters, which make up words and words have meaning!




The following items in the San Jose Public Library Collection can help reinforce print awareness. Click on the pictures below to view the items in our catalog.


Easy-Peasy Recipes and Kids Cook 1-2-3 are great books to use to cook with your child. They have great pictures and easy recipes that will help you get started in using print when cooking.

 Cover for Easy Peasy Recipescover for kids cook 1 2 3

Reading books like Maisy Bakes A Cake and Bunny Cakes, can be a great way to show your child how someone can follow the directions of a recipe or use a shopping list at the grocery store, without having to do all the work yourself!

 Cover for Maisy bakes a cakecover for bunny cakes

Flight 1-2-3 and Backseat A-B-See are wonderful books that can introduce your child to road signs and other forms of print and symbols in everyday life.

Cover for flight 1 2 3Cover for backseat A B See


Keep an eye out for the next and final blog post of Early Literacy Foundations, Part 6: Letter Knowledge.

Early Literacy Foundations Part 4: Narrative Skills

In this fourth part of Early Literacy Foundations, we will explore Narrative Skills.

For previous blog posts in this series, please see Part One, Part Two and Part Three.


What are narrative skills?

Narrative skills include the ability to describe things, the ability to tell a story, and the ability to follow a story that someone else is reading or telling. This includes understanding a sequence of events (first, middle, last) and being able to predict what will happen next.


Why are narrative skills important?

Narrative skills allow a child to develop their oral language skills as well as their comprehension of what others are saying or reading. Being able to follow a story, and being able to interpret and understand what is being read, are linked with being able to read. These skills are foundational for general reading comprehension and have implications for being able to listen and understand what a teacher is saying in a classroom or what is written in the instructions of an assignment or project, later in life.


How can I help my child develop their narrative skills?


Activities using prediction

Ask questions that provoke your child to predict what will happen next. This can be done when reading together or in everyday life. Questions like: "Look the cup of milk is on the edge of the table, what do you think will happen if someone bumps it?" will help your child begin to think about cause and effect and be able to verbalize a sequence of events.



Ask questions after reading a book about what happened such as "Can you remember what it was that the girl found in the treasure chest? What happened after she opened the chest? Where did they go after that?". These types of questions will help your child recall what just happened in the book and allow them to work on their oral language skills as well as their comprehension of the book that was just read. Help your child along in re-telling the chain of events from the book.

Even in everyday life, something as simple as asking your child to recall what they did today can help develop narrative skills. Get the whole family involved and take turns having each family member describe their day at the dinner table.



Cover for show me a storyTelling stories together is a great way to develop those narrative skills, work on oral language skills and use our creativity and imagination! Making storytelling kits can be a great craft project to do together as well. A random collection of small objects (a key, a stuffed animal, a shoe, a box) can be a great starting point for any number of creative stories. You can also use object flash cards! Have your child pick five at random and help them create a story using those objects. Help them along by giving them a leading sentence or two: "Once upon a time, the child picked up a magical stick, and then..."


For other storytelling kit ideas, Show Me A Story by Emily Neuberger is a great book full of creative storytelling activities.


Another great tool for storytelling is the wordless picture book. Books such as Where's Walrus, Flotsam, and Higher! Higher! have little or no words and allow you (with the help of your child) to provide the narrative. Make sure that you spend a good amount of time on each page really explaining what is going on and asking questions about what your child thinks is happening. Take turns on each page describing what is happening and what the characters might be saying. Without printed words there are many possibilities and opportunities to work on those narrative skills.

Cover for where's walrusCover for flotsamCover for Higher Higher



Cover for baby read aloud basicsIn addition to the many wordless picture books in our collection,Cover for the read-aloud handbook

the San Jose Public Library has a wide variety of resources to assist you in helping your child develop his/her narrative skills. Titles such as Baby Read-Aloud Basics and The Read-Aloud Handbook can give you strategies for purposeful reading aloud and ideas for making every book you read with your baby or child meaningful and fun!


Keep an eye out for the next installment of Early Literacy Foundations, where we will talk about the fifth early literacy skill: Print Awareness.

Early Literacy Foundations Part 3: Vocabulary

In this third part of Early Literacy Foundations, we will explore Vocabulary.

(Have you read Part 1: Print Motivation or Part 2: Phonological Awareness yet?)


What is vocabulary?

Vocabulary in the early years of a child’s life includes knowing the names of things, concepts, feelings and ideas.


Why is it Important?


Give Your Child Their Best Chance at Learning How to Read

Vocabulary building is an essential early literacy skill for learning how to read. It is easier to learn how to read when the words being sounded out (or the sight words being recalled) are familiar to the learner.


Kindergarten Readiness

It is generally accepted that children entering school need to know between 3,000 and 5,000 words. Knowledge of words and concepts is a key component of kindergarten readiness.


Overall Academic Success

Studies have shown that the number of words a child is exposed to in their early years is a strong predictor of later academic success. It will be much easier for a child to become excited about an assignment if they are not struggling with reading and comprehending the instructions.


Social-Emotional Development

A key factor in social emotional development is a child’s ability to express oneself. Children with strong vocabularies have a wider variety of words to choose from when expressing themselves, not just as a child, but also as an adult. It will also help with developing a sense of empathy when they have read and learned about a wide variety of emotions. They will be able to understand when someone is lonely or overwhelmed if they have knowledge of those emotions.


Lifelong Learning

The act of vocabulary-building encourages lifelong learning. By exploring new words, subjects and ideas together, you can pique your child’s interest in any number of possibilities in this great big world! Who knows, by reading about planets, stars and meteors, you might be inspiring the next astronaut or, by reading about orcas, humpback whales and giant squid, you might be sparking the interest of the world’s next great marine biologist!


How can I help my child build their vocabulary?


Oral Language

Talking and reading to your baby and child is extremely important. What better way to help increase your child’s vocabulary than by sharing your own word knowledge with them? It is never too early to start talking with your child. Before your child is even able to talk, you are helping their cognitive development by exposing them to language.


DVDs and books for introducing new words and feelings to your baby:

Cover for Action WordsCover for Bee Smart BabyCover for How Does Baby Feel?Cover for First 100 Words



Once they are able to speak, it is important to give your child many opportunities to learn new words. Repetition reinforces words they've heard once or twice, so make sure you repeat yourself even if it feels redundant. Have them repeat after you, even if you don't think they can pronounce the word perfectly yet. The goal is to get them to experiment saying different sounds and words and will help with their language development even if they don’t master the word right away.


Non-fiction Reading

Cover for Lots of SpotsIncorporating non-fiction books when reading out loud to your child. Often non-fiction books have a wider variety of vocabulary words and bigger words as well. Do not shy away from big words, either. Children are capable of understanding more than we sometimes give them credit for. Go ahead and tell them the full details: "Do you see that vehicle? It is called an excavator! Do you see the bucket that excavates the dirt out of the ground?" By pointing out these things, especially in everyday life, they will begin to grasp the meaning over time, if not right away.


Cover for InsectBooks like Lots of Spots by Lois Ehlert will introduce your child to different kinds of animals and help your child focus on the details that separate different kinds of the same animal. For example, instead of just saying “bird”, the author shows us that there are many different kinds of birds: Chickadee, Robin, Bluejay, Hairy Woodpecker and Loon. DK Press' Eyewitness Books are great for kids who are a little bit older. They have full color photographs and break down non-fiction subjects in great detail. Perfect for learning lots of new words!


Activity Books, Nursery Rhymes and Picture Dictionaries

Ready, Set, Preschool has a wide variety of activities, stories and poems that are great for vocabulary building. It is also wonderful for working on any of the other early literacy skills!


My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells and Mother Goose's Storytime Nursery Rhymes by Axel Scheffler are great for teaching well loved and well-known nursery rhymes to your child. Nursery Rhymes often have interesting and different words than aren't commonly used in everyday language and can help expand your child's vocabulary. Folk, Fairy Tale and Nursery Rhyme Books are great for introducing new words to your little one and allowing them to learn through context. "Little Miss Muffet sat on a Tuffet", for example, will teach your child what a tuffet is, without having to explain it!


The American Heritage Picture Dictionary will allow you to turn to any random page and learn about many exciting things! Picture dictionaries are great for making connections between the words and the pictures. The I Spy series of picture books will provide you and your child with hours of fun with each page chock full of hundreds of obscure objects, both large and small.

Cover for Ready Set PreschoolCover for my very first mother gooseCOver for mother gooses storytime nursery rhymesCover for American Heritage Picture Dictionary

Keep an eye out for the next post in this series, Early Literacy Foundations Part 4, where we will explore Narrative Skills.

Early Literacy Foundations Part 2: Phonological Awareness

In this second part of Early Literacy Foundations, we will explore Phonological Awareness.

If you would like to read part one of Early Literacy Foundations first, please read it here.


What does it mean?

Phonological awareness is being conscious of letter sounds. It means understanding that those symbols on the page (letters) represent sounds that we then speak. Being aware that words are a combination of sounds and that words rhyme that have the same letter combinations are both part of phonological awareness. 


Why is it important?

You need to have phonological awareness in order to be able to sound out words. Children who do not develop a strong phonological awareness often have trouble learning how to read.


How can I help my child develop phonological awareness?

Alphabet books (see the concept book area at the library), can help your child develop this skill by focusing on one letter at a time. While reading these books to your child, have them repeat you as you say the name of each letter and sound it out. 


Cover of Sesame Street ABC book

Another type of book that can help with developing phonological awareness are word books, such as the Sesame Street ABC book. These types of books often have many objects on the page that all start with the same letter. They also have the printed word on the page next to the object so that they can make the connection between the words on the page, the obects, and the letter that you are focusing on.



The Cat in the Hat coverRhyming books like the Cat in the Hat, are great for introducing how words with the same letter combinations can rhyme. As you point to the words, you can have your child repeat the words after you. By showing them how the words look and sound similar, you are helping them develop this early literacy skill.






cover for Letter sounds dvdThe San Jose Public Library has a wide variety of resources available to help you develop phonological awareness with your child.  Dvds such as: Meet the Phonics: Letter Sounds, Pocket Snails Aquaphonic Adventure, and Rock 'N Learn Letter Sounds (pictured left) are great for getting your child started on developing an awareness of letter sounds.



We also have a large selection of ABC books (located in the concept book area), such as Alpha Oops! by Alethea Kontis & Bob KolarZ is for Moose by Kelly Bingham & Paul Zelinsky, Richard Scarry's ABC Word Book and ABC by Bruno Munari.  


Book Cover for Alpha oopsCover for Z is for Moosebook cover for abc word bookbook cover for abc



Another great resource to ask a librarian about is our bilingual kit called Books and More!. These kits contain books, DVDs, toys and tips, all for working with your child on early literacy skills.



Check back next week when we will explore the next early literacy skill: Vocabulary!

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