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Early Literacy

Early Literacy

Reading is vital to a child’s ability to learn and be successful in school. And the early literacy skills needed to be a good reader – like language and vocabulary – start developing from birth. But it doesn’t happen automatically. A child’s brain is not pre-wired for reading.

early literacy flow chart

Talk. Read. Succeed.

When babies and toddlers hear words and language from caring adults, their brains develop the important connections needed to learn how to read. Studies show that children whose parents and caregivers regularly talk and read with them develop larger vocabularies, become better readers and do better in school. That’s because the first few years of a child’s life are when the brain grows and develops the most, and a child’s experiences in these early years affect how their brain develops.

Language and early literacy developments starts from the very beginning. Babies are listening in utero, and once they’re born, they’re communicating through eye contact, facial expressions, crying, smiles and touch. When adults respond with words, conversation and attention, it helps build the child’s brain in ways that promote healthy development and learning.

Reading together builds language and early literacy skills

Smart Talk

Read On Arizona Smart Talk logo

Smart Talk is having quality, back-and-forth conversations with your baby or toddler.

It’s the best thing you can do to set your child up for success in school and in life. You don’t need special tools or training. Anyone can do it – anywhere, anytime.

Here’s how:


Read On Arizona Smart Talk DESCRIBE bubble

Talk about what you are doing – changing diapers, feeding, getting dressed – and where you are or what you see.


Read On Arizona Smart Talk ASK bubbleAsk open-ended questions – who, what, where, when, why – even if your child can’t respond with words.


Read On Arizona Smart Talk RESPOND bubbleListen and respond to your child. Emphasize the back and forth in everyday activities by reacting to what your child does or says, even if that means imitating babble.


Read On Arizona Smart Talk READ bubbleReading books and telling stories are simple ways to introduce new and unusual words and build vocabulary.


Read On Arizona Smart Talk REPEAT bubbleRepeat words and short, simple sentences over and over. Echo what your child says and shows interest in.

Read On Arizona

First Things First is a founding partner of Read On Arizona, our state’s early literacy initiative. Read On Arizona is a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations and community stakeholders committed to improving language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children from birth through age 8, with strategic focus on school readiness and third-grade reading.

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