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Babies and Toddlers: Building the Foundation for Literacy

Babies' brains are hardwired to learn language. Even before birth, they are listening! Some studies indicate that babies as young as 4 days old prefer the sound of someone speaking the same language as their birth mothers. Newborn babies also recognize the sound of their mother's voice almost immediately after birth.

Learning about language is the first step towards learning to read. Using "parentese" when speaking to a baby is instinctive, and the best way for a baby to hear the sounds of his native language. What is "parentese"? It's nothing more than speaking slowly and quietly, in simple sentences.

At around 18 months old, babies have what is commonly referred to as a "language explosion." They are learning an average of one new word every 2 hours!

During this time, there are several things adults can do to help develop a child's emerging literacy skills:

Talk, talk, talk!
Providing a rich language environment is just what a baby needs to develop the important language pathways in the brain, which will later be used to build reading skills.

Sing Songs and Share Nursery Rhymes
Again, you are building language areas of the brain which will later be used to process word sounds.

Read With Your Baby
The research is very clear that the amount of time a child has spent sharing books and stories with caring adults is the greatest predictor of future reading success.

Programs and Activities
  • Henderson Happenings (City of Henderson, Parks and Recreation Programs)
    Listing of classes and programs offered through the City of Henderson Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospitals Family to Family Connection
    This free, state-wide resource program is for all parents of children from birth to 48 months. Services include hospital visits, classes and workshops at the New Baby Center, and a Resource Lending Center with books, videos, and educational materials. There are other Family to Family Connection locations throughout Southern Nevada.
  • National Center for Families Learning: Interactive Tools
    Spend time together with your family while you have fun and learn!
  • Wee Can Sign
    Long before they can speak, babies and toddlers can communicate using their hands! Babies (some as young as 8 months of age) can show you what they are thinking about using American Sign Language. Learn this early, effective form of communication which has been proven to reduce frustration, increase vocabulary and enhance the parent/child bond. 
  • Born 2 Sign
    Signing is a powerful communication tool for children too young to speak and is fun for children of all ages. Includes an online signing dictionary.

Early Literacy

Parenting Help
  • Born Learning
    Your child's "ages and stages," as well as age-appropriate activities for encouraging learning and pre-literacy skills. Sponsored by United Way Success by Six.
  • Read to Your Baby
    Read-aloud tips, book reviews, and more.
  • Parents Action for Children
    Rob Reiner and his wife founded this organization to raise public awareness about early childhood development and advocacy.
  • Zero to Three
    Boston University School of Medicine and the Erickson Institute maintain this comprehensive site to keep parents, child care providers, and pediatricians up to date on the latest information and research about this age group.
  • Parenting Counts
    Video clips, helpful information, and research on parenting and early learning.
  • Preventive Ounce
    Can't understand why your child behaves the way he does? This online questionnaire might help you better understand your child's temperament.

Local Assistance