Early Literacy

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Raising a Reader Starts at Birth! 
It’s never too early to get children excited about words, and what learning to read can mean. Our storytimes, picture book collections, videos and unique games give tots the building blocks to become readers for life.

From the time they are infants, children learn language and other important skills that will help them enter kindergarten ready to learn to read. Learning to read begins before children enter school.

Parents and care-givers are a child’s first and best teacher. You know more about your child than anyone else. Your child will learn best by doing things with you! If English is not your first language, speak to the child in the language you know best.

The best way to help children get ready to read are talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing together. It is easy to make these practices part of your everyday routine. Have fun with these activities so that your child wants to do them again and again!

  • Talking helps your child get ready to read. You can have a conversation about what is happening in your day. Ask your child questions and expand on what your child says. Take turns and give your child lots of time to make comments and express ideas.

  • Singing is a natural way to learn about language. Songs help children develop listening skills and pay attention to the rhymes and rhythms of spoken language. Songs break down words so that children can hear the individual syllables. This is an important pre-reading skill. You can clap along to the syllables in words.

  • Reading together is the single most important way to help your child get ready to read. Shared reading develops a love of reading and an appreciation of books. A child’s interest in reading is an important predictor of later reading achievement.

  • Playing helps children think symbolically and develop language skills. Dramatic play helps build narrative skills as children make up a story about what they are doing. Playing with your child can be a great way to prompt conversation.

  • Writing can include activities like scribbling with crayons and tracing letters in the sand with a stick. It builds fine motor skills. Writing things for your child, like writing their name on their artwork, teaches children about letters, a pre-reading skill called “letter knowledge”.

Early Learning resources include:

  • Storytimes for five different age ranges (see calendar for dates and locations), developed using Every Child Ready to Read II early literacy curriculum and California Dept. of Education standards for Kindergarten Readiness.
  • Extensive collections with high-quality picture books, nonfiction, and toddler books for little hands - take home up to 50 items with your library card!
  • Toys and play areas to encourage dramatic play, exploration, and learning about the world.
  • Early Literacy Calendars developed by our children's librarians to encourage daily use of the five practices of early literacy.
  • The 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program is a nationwide initiative encouraging parents and caregivers to read 1,000 books to their young learners before kindergarten.
  • Stories to Go are themed bilingual kits with resources for childcare providers to host high-quality storytimes.

The Sonoma County Library offers a wide variety of opportunities for you to talk, play, read, write, and sing with us. Visit your local branch to explore!

Sonoma County Library Survey Work

In May and June 2019, Sonoma County Library staff distributed surveys to program participants to collect data and insights about how their early childhood literacy services and programs are supporting community needs. Sonoma County Library surveyed patrons using the Project Outcome Early Childhood Literacy Survey, which measures the impact of services designed to improve early literacy and learning skills to prepare children ages 0-5 to succeed in school. A total of 159 survey responses were collected.

Of the percentage of parents or caregivers surveyed who either agreed or strongly agreed that they benefited from the service or program:

  • 95% learned something they can share with their children
  • 91% intend to spend more time interacting with their children
  • 93% felt more confident helping their children learn
  • 95% were more aware of resources and services provided by the library

Click this link to review the full results of the 2019 Early Literacy Storytimes Survey.

Tips for Storytime Success

For many children this will be their first group experience. The following tips will help to make it a happy one:

  • Participate! Please join in the activities and save interactions with other parents until after the program. Model the same behavior that you expect from your child.
  • Minimize distractions. Plan to arrive early. Food and toys should be put away, and cell phones should be silenced before the program begins.
  • Be prepared for bad days.  If your child becomes very restless or uncooperative, please step outside the program space for a few moments to regroup. 
  • Bring it back home.  Plan to check out books each week for your child to extend the story sharing experience at home.
  • Relax, it is not expected that your child will sit still and participate in every activity. 
  • Ask for help. Our storytimes are geared for specific developmental levels (baby, toddler, preschool). Library staff is available to assist you in selecting which program is right for your child, to guide you in choosing appropriate books and materials, and to provide information about other library services.
  • Visits from groups. Our weekly storytimes are designed for children and their parents. Arrangements for daycare, school or other group visits should be made in advance.