Literacy in Early Learning Spaces | How do young children interact with books?

By Emily S. RSS Wed, July 13, 2022

Literacy in Early Learning Spaces is a Free Library project focused on literacy and language development in children from birth through 5 years old. We partner with childcare programs across Philadelphia and are funded through a generous investment from the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program™. This post was written by Bilingual Early Childhood Literacy Specialist Alicia Outing Guerrero.


A love of reading starts early, so it is never too soon to share books with the little ones in your life! When we celebrate and encourage a child’s first attempts at reading, we are helping to build the foundation for future reading success. But what does reading look like for very young children? Here are some tips for teachers, family members and other caregivers.


Infants are exploring books using their senses. They will touch, reach for and pat their book. They might even try to taste it! They are starting to focus their eyes on the pictures. And most of all, they are learning that reading can be a special time with the important grownups in their lives. Read with your infant on your lap, point to the pictures, and let them lead by choosing a book that they crawl to or pick up. When they babble about the book, talk back to them!

Play with your book! Check out: Peekaboo Bedtime by Rachel Isadora

Young Toddlers

You’ll see young toddlers start to recognize things like animals and colors that they know when you read together. They might point to their favorite parts in the book and you can name what they see. They will hold the book and turn the pages, copying the way you have shown them how to read.

Read about reading! Check out: Share This Book by John Hutton

Older Toddlers

Older toddlers will start to hold the book the right way and turn the pages in order. They might point to words in the book, just like you do when you read! Share your excitement about the story by helping them to notice the colors, animals, foods and other objects in the illustrations. 

Reading is better together! Check out: Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn


At this age children are starting to understand that words go from left to right and from top to bottom of the page if you are reading in a language like English or Spanish (or from right to left for a language like Arabic). They might point or slide their fingers in the correct direction. They are learning how writing works! They will love telling you about their story, talking about what they see in the pictures and remembering a story that you have read to them before. After reading, try acting out their favorite parts of the book.

Get a little silly with it! Check out: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra (Y en español:  ¡Qué locura por la lectura!)


Aim to read every day, whether at school, at home, or even outside. And remember to have fun while you read!

Find videos with literacy tips and activities to engage your little ones on the Free Library Early Learning Youtube channel, and read about even more early literacy ideas for infants and young toddlers under two years old from Read, Baby, Read.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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