Toddlers often pretend to read their favorite books.

Literacy Observational Checklist for Toddlers

by Martha Mendenhall

The “terrible twos” have descended upon your toddler. Even though his behavior may be trying at times, keep an eye on it. He should be displaying skills that demonstrate early literacy. Don’t panic here. Literacy for toddlers has nothing to do with teaching your youngster to read. At this age, focus on looking out for a few key developmental behaviors.

1. Talking and Telling Stories

You will probably notice a language explosion between your child’s second and third birthdays. Not only will she add words to her vocabulary, but she’ll string words together into sentences of two to four words. Add this cognitive leap to her new-found delight in pretend play, and you’ll most likely notice her begin to retell favorite parts of the books you read her. She might even make up her own stories. This ability to frame her imagination into a sequence of events that has a beginning, middle and end -- however fanciful -- is an important step on the road to literacy.

2. “Reading” and Listening to Books

If you’ve been reading aloud to your toddler all along, as he moves into his third year, he’ll probably begin to insist upon his favorites. While one more reading of “Goodnight, Moon” might tempt you to run screaming from the room, try to see his sight recognition of his favorite book as a positive sign that he’s right on track in reading readiness. He might also begin to pretend to read his favorite books aloud. Encourage and applaud this "reading.” He’s demonstrating his pleasure and interest in books and reading, an interest that will serve him well in his school years to come.

3. Rhymes and Symbols

By the age of 2, your toddler should be ready to not only play simple games such as Pat-a-Cake, but say the rhyme along with you as well. Teach her new rhyming games such as The Itsy, Bitsy Spider and Ring around the Rosie. She’ll learn simple rhyming words, a skill that will prepare her for future reading. Create your own games to enhance another age appropriate literacy skill -- symbol recognition. When approaching a stop sign, ask her what the sign tells you to do. At the grocery store, have her “read” familiar packages that are recognizable by shape, such as milk or egg cartons. Over time, she’ll begin to connect the object to the word.

4. Letters and Writing

Your toddler is developing into one sharp cookie. Before his third birthday, he will probably begin to recognize some letters, especially those in his name. He may even attempt to write them. Though these rudimentary attempts probably won’t be shaped perfectly, his attempts to write letters demonstrate his burgeoning knowledge of the difference between drawing pictures and writing words. Enhance his interest in writing by providing him with a box containing special paper and markers or crayons. He'll grow into a preschooler eager to further develop his skills.

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