Early Literacy

Reading is vital to a child's ability to learn and be successful in school. And the skills needed to be a good reader - like language and vocabulary - start developing from birth. But it doesn't happen automatically; a child's brain is not pre-wired for reading.

Talk. Read. Succeed.

The first few years of a child's life are when the brain grows and develops the most. And scientific research has shown that a child's experiences in these early years affect how their brain develops. When a child hears words and language from caring adults, their brains develop the important connections needed to learn how to read. Studies show that children whose parents and caregivers regularly talk and read with them develop larger vocabularies, become better readers and do better in school.


Smart Talk

Babies can't talk, but that doesn't mean they're not communicating. Eye contact, facial expressions, crying, smiles and touch are all ways baby communicate. When adults respond - with words, conversation and attention - it helps build the child's brain in ways that promote healthy development and learning.

Smart Talk is having quality, back-and-forth conversations with your baby or toddler. It's the best thing you can do to set your child up for success in school and in life. You don't need special tools or training. Anyone can do it - anywhere, anytime.

Here's how:

Talk about what you are doing - changing diapers, feeding, getting dressed - and where you are or what you see.


Ask open-ended questions - who, what, where, when, why - even if your child can't respond with words.


Be sure to listen and respond to your child. Emphasize the back and forth in everyday activities by reacting to what your child does or says, even if that means imitating babble.


A simple way to introduce new and unusual words and build vocabulary is by telling stories or reading books.


Repeat words and short, simple sentences over and over. Echo what your child says and shows interest in.


First Things First is a founding partner of Read On Arizona, a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations and community stakeholders committed to creating an effective continuum of services to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona's children from birth through age eight.


Favorite Books for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers