Early Reading Support-Ready for Reading

Visit our new Ready For Reading pages

  • Ready for Reading is a complete set of free programs, services, books, spaces and resources for children birth to age five.

Ready for Reading - Videos

  • Learn a rhyme, listen to a story or sing a song right here.

Let's Get Ready for Reading Guide

  • Let's Get Ready for Reading is Toronto Public Library's resource guide for parents and caregivers of children from birth to five. The book is full of book recommendations, rhymes, songs, activities and reading readiness tips, all based on the Ready for Reading skills and activities described below.Borrow a copy from the library or buy your own at any library branch.

Early Reading Support - Ready for Reading

  • Free, high quality programs, services and resources support reading readiness in Toronto children from birth to five years.
  • Ready for Reading Research

    • How you interact with your child, from their earliest days, affects every aspect of their development, including the changes in their brain function that get them ready to read.
    • A child's ability to read has a huge effect on their success in school and in life.
    • You are your child's first and most important teacher. You can help your child build the six important skills they need to be ready for reading through fun, everyday activities at home.
    • Ready for Reading at Toronto Public Library is founded on extensive research into the importance of key skills and principles in building reading readiness. It is adapted from the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read program.

  • Six Important Pre-Reading Skills

    • Print motivation - or liking books - means children will want to learn to read.
    • Phonological awareness - hearing words and the smaller sounds in words - helps children sound out written words.
    • Vocabulary - knowing many words - helps children recognize written words and understand what they read.
    • Narrative skills - being able to tell and understand the structure of a story - help children develop thinking and comprehension skills.
    • Print awareness - seeing words - means being familiar with printed language.  It helps children feel comfortable with books and understand that print is useful.
    • Letter knowledge - knowing the names and sounds of letters - helps children figure out how to sound out words.

  • Print Motivation - I Like Books!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - Start sharing books with your baby very early - even as a newborn. Use cloth books, board books and picture books.
      - Always make reading together a warm and happy experience.
      - Let your child hold the books as he or she develops.
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - Bring a sense of adventure to your reading.
      - Let your child ask questions or act things out as you're reading.
      - Encourage your youngster to choose a favourite book to read at home or at the library.
      - Make sure they have favourite books of their own to keep
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - Many activities fill your child’s days, but reading together is as important as ever.
      - Choose books your child likes, ones that appeal to their developing interests.
      - Let your child see you reading for enjoyment too!

  • Phonological Awareness - I Hear Words!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - Babies love the sound of your voice. Talk to babies, sing songs and play games using rhymes and fingerplays.
      - All these activities help develop your baby's ability to hear the small sounds in words.
      - Songs are especially good as each syllable in a word usually gets a different note.
      - Say a word slowly, then say it quickly to help your child learn that smaller sounds make up words: mon - key ...monkey!
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - As your child learns to walk, clap, sing and dance you can link all these activities to language.
      - Sing songs together.
      - Play hand games or use activities like jumping to accompany words.
      - Encourage your child to find rhyming words. Play word games like: "What sounds like ball?"
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - As your child gets older, have fun with word games.
      - Ask your child: "Do cat and dog rhyme? Do cat and hat rhyme?"
      - See if they can say a word twister like: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
      - Read to your child using lots of expression in your voice.
      - Change your voice when talking about "a big gruff bear" or a "tiny little mouse".
      - Let your child make the sound of a horse, a cow, a train, a superhero.

  • Vocabulary - I Know Words!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - Talk with your baby about what is going on around you.
      - Point out things like cars, trucks, cats and dogs.
      - Listen as your baby babbles or your toddler talks.               
      - Answer, even when you don't know what they mean.
      - Ask questions like: "Do you want some more juice? Here’s some more juice."
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - Ask your child questions and add more detail to what they say in reply. Say: "Was the truck red? Was the car blue?"
      - Talk about feelings. Say: "I bet you felt happy about that. Are you excited?"
      - As you read with your child, talk about the story and pictures.
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - Talk with your child about everything. Talk about your day. Ask about their day.
      - Talk about ideas and plans.
      - Learn together by reading books on many different topics.

  • Narrative Skills - I Can Tell a Story!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - Talk to your baby about what you're doing.
      - Read their favourite books again and again.
      - As they begin to talk, be patient, listen attentively and ask questions.
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - Your child may 'talk your ear off' at this age, and ask endless questions starting with 'why'. Encourage this curiosity and interest.
      - Ask your child to draw a picture and tell you about it.
      - Tell stories from your childhood. 
      - Read books together that you’ve enjoyed before, but switch what you do: you be the listener and let your child tell you the story.
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - Listen as your child tells you about their day, a TV show, or friends.
      - Ask questions so they learn to add interesting details.
      - As you share books, point to a picture and say: "What's that?" or "What's happening there?"
      - Then repeat back and add more detail: "Yes, he looks happy. Do you think he's tired too? Are you tired when you come home from a long trip?"

  • Print Awareness - I See Words!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - As you share cloth books, board books and picture books with your baby, point to some of the words as you say them - especially if there are only a few words on the page. 
      - Point out signs - like stop signs.
      - Point to labels on their toys, t-shirts or mugs.
      - We're surrounded by print all the time in our daily lives, and even as a baby, your child will start to learn there is meaning attached to printed language.
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - Show your toddler words in the books you share, especially words that are repeated.
      - Run your finger under a word or sentence as you read.
      - Let your child hold the book and 'read' to you!
      - Hold the book upside down and see if your child notices.
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - Praise your youngster when they recognize words like 'Stop' on stop signs or 'Open' on doors.
      - Let your child practice writing their name.
      - Encourage them to find certain words in books you share.

  • Letter Knowledge - I Know Letters!

    • Babies, birth to 18 months:
      - Starting from birth, it is good to help your child see and feel different shapes as they play.
      - As you share alphabet and picture books, point out what is the same and what is different between two things. Say: "This ball is round."
      - Help your child play with wooden puzzles.
      - Point out letters on toys, food boxes and other objects around the house.
    • Toddlers, 19 months to 3 years:
      - Help your child make letters from clay, or use magnetic letters on a fridge door.
      - Help your child recognize their name, especially the first letter.
      - Point out letters when you're reading books and on signs and labels.
      - Encourage your child to play with paper or chalk boards to 'write' on.
    • Preschoolers, 3 years to 5 years:
      - Write out words that interest your child, like 'dinosaur' or 'truck' using crayons, magnetic letters, chalk boards or pencil.
      - Write down stories about your child's day and read them together.
      - Show your child that the same letter can look different such as: big R and little r; big G and little g.

  • What is Dialogic Reading?

    Reading or telling a story to a child is a wonderful, shared experience. Many times, you will want to tell the story just as it is. Other times, it is good to talk with your child - engage in a dialogue - as you read. This helps children build the skills they need to get ready to read. 
    How do you do this? It's easy. 

    - Start when you read with your baby. Point to a picture and ask 'what' or 'where' questions like: "What's this? Where's the dog?"
    - As your child gets older and starts to point or answer, add comments like: "That’s right. There's the dog. He's sleeping isn't he?"
    - As your child grows, ask more open-ended questions like: "What do you think is going on here?  Tell me what you see on this page."
    - Help your child repeat longer phrases.
    - Always stay positive and follow your child’s interest.
    - Offer help as needed and praise their efforts.

  • Tips for Reading Aloud 

    For Parents and Caregivers:

    • Exaggerate your facial expressions.
    • Show enthusiasm.
    • Vary your voice, making it loud or soft, high or low.
    • Give story characters different voices.
    • Add dramatic sounds.
    • Use gestures.
    • Pause for dramatic effect.
    • Make the story interactive. Ask your child to add a word or repeat a line.
    • Incorporate familiar people or places, when possible.
    • Keep reading times short. If your child is not interested, don't force it.

    For Educators:

    • Begin with a finger-play or song to get children ready to listen.
    • Read longer stories first.
    • Alternate stories with finger-plays or songs.
    • Hold the book so children can see the pictures to connect what they see with what they hear.
    • Choose shorter books to keep toddlers' attention, and give preschoolers a chance to answer questions.
    • Toddlers may wander around while you read. Don't worry. They are still absorbing language and sounds.
    • Babies should be in the same room while you read to older children. Take time to read one-on-one with babies, too!
    • Encourage school-age children to read to younger children.
    • Give children opportunities to look at books on their own.

  • Selecting the Right Books for your Child

    This is an area of concern for most parents, since there are many children's books published each year, and it's easy to feel intimidated by the wide range of titles available. Look for books that reflect your child's interests, and abilities.

    • When choosing books for younger children, select books that you like as well, since you may have to read them over and over again!
    • Choosing books that are too easy may be boring for your child and she will quickly lose interest.
    • Choosing books that are too advanced will put your child off because they are too difficult to understand but remember that even young children may be able to understand more than they can verbalize.

        Choosing Books for Babies (0 - 18 months)

        • Babies like books with pictures of familiar objects, and with a strong rhythm and rich language sounds.
        • Picture books - select books with simple, large illustrations. High contrast black and white graphics work well, as do solid colours
        • Board books and cloth books - choose sturdy books that a baby can handle safely.
        • Nursery Rhyme books - select books with rhymes and poems that have strong rhythm and rich language sounds

        Choosing Books for Toddlers (19 months - 3 years)

        • Toddlers like predictability and repetition.
        • Any of the books recommended for babies.
        • Storybooks - select books about what is familiar to your child, such as your child's favourite things or your family's culture.
        • Alphabet and Counting Books.

        Choosing Books for Preschoolers (3 - 5 years old)

        • Preschoolers like to be involved. Let them help choose the books, or have them turn the pages as they follow along as you read and share stories.
        • Pre-schoolers are ready for longer, more complex stories.
        • Rhyming and nonsense books, such as Dr. Seuss books are popular
        • Try audiobook sets - books with CD or cassette tapes that read the story while you and your child turn the pages of the book.
        • Online stories - electronic stories that have interactive elements- can be a nice change.
        • Some pre-schoolers are ready for beginning readers.

        If you have any questions, ask an expert. Toronto Public Library's children's librarians are an excellent source of knowledge and expertise.

      • 10 Tips to Raise a Reader - (Birth - 5 years)

        • Read aloud to your baby and young children. It's never too early to start.
        • Read every day. Set aside a special time just for reading. Find a comfortable place with no distractions. 
        • Read anywhere. Take books when you travel. Read on the bus, in a waiting room, in the park.
        • Let them handle books. Share board books with babies. They are sturdy, easy to hold and can be wiped. Let your young children handle books on their own.
        • Experience the book. Let your child look at the cover and the pictures in the book. Show your baby how to turn pages. Let them explore books - even if it means tasting them!
        • Involve your child. Talk about the pictures. Point out objects and name them.
        • Make reading fun. Make reading a performance. Use your voice and expression to create interest. Stop when your child is tired.
        • Keep books on low shelves where your child can see them and can reach them on her own.
        • Let your child see you read. Keep books, magazines and newspapers around. Your child will know you value reading and will value it too.
        • Visit your library! There are lots of books and other things to look at and borrow. There are free programs too.

      • Action Rhymes and Finger Plays

      Websites

      • Reading tips and techniques, choosing the right books, rhymes and fingerplays; learning activities and more.
      • Zero to Three: Parent Portal

        http://www.zerotothree.org/parenting-resources/

        Resources designed to help you tune in to what makes your child tick, and to guide you in thinking about the best way to meet your child's individual needs.

      • CDN Between the Lions for Parents & Teachers

        http://www.pbs.org/parents/lions/

        Discover resources, activities, and curriculum materials to help kids learn to read and write.

      • CDN Teach Your Monster to Read

        http://www.teachyourmonstertoread.com/

        A free British site when children learn the alphabet and early reading skills as they play games.

      • CDN Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development

        http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/en-ca/home.html

        Covers 35 topics related to the psychosocial development of the child, from conception to the age of five.

      • Reading is Fundamental: Leading to Reading

        http://www.rif.org/books-activities/

        RIF is the largest nonprofit literacy organization in the United States dedicated to fostering children's literacy. This site contains activities for children, booklists and resources for parents and educators.

      • Get Ready to Read

        http://www.getreadytoread.org/

        Offers step-by-step instructions, activity cards, online games, research information and a variety of other teaching resources to teach young children the fundamental skills necessary for learning to read.

      • Get Set for Kindergarten

        https://www.cmlibrary.org/getset4k

        A month by month guide to school readiness, including reading readiness, kindergarten skills and health and wellness.

      • Grow up Reading

        http://www.growupreading.org/

        Preparing your child to be a reader, from babies to Kindergarten.

      • Literacy Center Education Network

        http://www.literacycenter.net/

        Interactive lessons, and printable activities to learn letters, numbers, colours and shapes. Available in English, French, Spanish and German.

      • CDN Ontario Early Years

        http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/childcare/FamilyPrograms.html

        Locate an Early Years & Family Centre in your area.

      • Reading Rockets

        http://www.readingrockets.org/

        Information about teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle.

      • CDN TVO Kids Big Backyard Book Club

        http://www.tvokids.com/ugc/giselesbigbackyardbookclub

        Listen to a book read online.

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