How Talk Can Help With Early Literacy Skills

Telling stories orally is the way that we, as humans, initially communicated to each other. It’s also the first way that children will start to learn about the world. It’s through the sounds, noises, and world they see around them that helps them learn how to communicate. Communication is also the essential reason we need to learn how to read in the first place. Narrative skills, oral language, and talking to children helps them build early literacy skills to get them ready for reading and learning. The babbling, crying, cooing that we hear from babies is their first method of communication. When responding to them and speaking ‘parentese’ or also known as ‘baby talk,’ it breaks down the words, sounds, and keeps their interest. This interest is what guides them into their first steps in learning.

The more we talk to the children in our lives the more they learn. All this talking, singing, sound making, and verbal interaction leads to new vocabulary words and ideas that will enable children to simply know more. How exactly do we talk to and interact with children to help them build the literacy skills they need? There are many things we can do:

  • Talk about what you are doing and why
  • Answer back when babies babble or respond to talking children
  • Singing, rhyming, and repeating help make language and stories more accessible
  • Ask children questions about how they are feeling

As vocabulary and new ideas build up in a child’s knowledge bank, knowing how to put it all together is important too. Narrative and oral storytelling skills are how children can show that they can comprehend a story. This means being able to retell a story and understand the sequence of how stories work, and that there is a beginning, middle, and end. Remember that the options for storytelling and interacting with children are endless.

  • Discuss order of events for the day, in recipes, in stories, and other aspects of life
  • Don’t just read the book but ask questions about it as you read
  • Name objects and describe their uses
  • Describe your day

Be conscious of talking, communicating, and listening and early literacy skills can easily built into daily life. You can see a larger list of talking points here. Mesa County Libraries are here to help and we can offer that help through our story times, other programming like 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, and electronic resources through the kids tab on our web page.


a father laughing and cooking with his daughter.



Posted in General, Kids, Literacy.

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