Early LiteracyEarly Literacy

What Is Early Literacy And What Helps It Develop?

Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they actually learn the process of how to read or write. Young children need a variety of skills to become successful readers. Reading experts have determined that six specific literacy skills become the building blocks for later reading and writing. Research indicates that children who enter school with more of these skills are better able to benefit from reading instruction they receive.

They include:

  • Print Motivation - Developing a child's interest and enjoyment of books.
  • Print Awareness - Encouraging a child's awareness in noticing print, knowing how to handle a book, and understanding how to follow the words on a page.
  • Letter Knowledge - Helping a child learn to name letters, understand that they have sounds, and recognize that they are everywhere.
  • Phonological Awareness - Increasing a child's ability to hear and play with smaller sounds in words.
  • Narrative Skills - Encouraging a child's ability to describe things and events, plus how to tell stories.
  • Vocabulary - Helping a child know the names of things.

Programs for the Youngest at ICPL

Book Babies Program

Book Babies is now offered every Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. and Friday afternoon at 1:30 for babies 6-18 months. This program is a participatory program designed to foster early language development. Parents and caregivers can enjoy this time to play with baby and meet new friends. In keeping with its commitment to fostering early literacy, ICPL also provides "Begin With Books" kits to newborns in the hospital, a package that includes a board book, as well as information on the library and children's literacy. For more information, call the Library at 319.356.5200, or email


The Children's Room offers a set schedule of weekly storytimes throughout the year. Except on major holidays you can attend storytimes on:

  • Mondays & Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. (Toddler Storytime)
  • Wednesdays & Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. (Preschool Storytime)
  • Saturdays at 10:30 (Family Storytime)
  • Sundays at 2 p.m. (Family Storytime)

There is no registration for library storytimes--everyone is welcome. These programs last approximately 30 minutes.

Early Literacy Resources

Begin With Books to Create Life-Long Readers: A guide to early literacy produced by staff at the Iowa City Public Library

Book Babies Handouts with fingerplays and book suggestions from ICPL Book Babies programs

Reading Rockets: Lots of handouts and tips about early literacy including handouts in Spanish and 9 other languages

Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families: Resources such as the Baby Brain map to promote the health and development of infants and toddlers.

Finger Play Videos by the Johnson County (KS) Library

Reading Suggestions