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Tips for Early Literacy: The First Years (0-2 years)

It’s never too early or too late to instill the importance of literacy in your children. The type of content you read to your child is not as important as the consistency with which you read to them in the first years!

Children, especially toddlers, learn through imitation. Infants gradually internalize eating, talking, and even reading as natural parts of life when they see their parents exhibiting this behavior. By observing you read, your baby will learn to imitate your behavior. By hearing you read, your baby will learn different sounds and expand his or her vocabulary. You can read almost anything to your child, whether it be a board book or a fashion article, it does not matter. It is the time spent together reading that will have the greatest impact.

Birth – 6 Months

  • Read slowly and enunciate the words. Whether you are reading in Spanish or English, pronunciation is key!
  • Be consistent. Whether it's 5 minutes or 30 minutes, try to read at the same hour every day.
  • Be patient. Your baby might be fussy or may even cry. That is normal and should not stop you from reading to your child every day.

6 – 12 Months

  • Try to read every day at the same time. Reading a book is a good way to wind down before sleep time.
  • Teach your baby to hold the book, the sense of independence is stimulating for their self-esteem.
  • If you can, acquire board books. Children in this stage put everything in their mouths. Keep that in mind when buying or borrowing books!
  • Encourage your baby to copy the sounds and the expressions on your face.
  • Sing! If your baby prefers music, sing the story.

1-2 Years

  • Turn off the TV and any other distractions during reading time.
  • Relate what happens in the story to real life by making comments to help with association, e.g., “Look at that dog! He looks like our dog!”
  • Ask simple, yet pointed questions about the story, such as, “Why do you think this happened?” There does not have to be a right or wrong answer. These interactions are very stimulating for young children.
  • Make noises to distinguish different animals or characters in the story. For example, “Moo” said the cow or “Chu-Chu” went the train.
  • Do not expect long attention spans. Fostering quality and engaging experiences matter the most, no matter how long they are!

Milestones 0 – 2 Years

Below, we've provided a list of changes you should see in your baby in his or her first years.

It’s important to note that not all babies develop at the same time because they are unique. Some babies might reach a milestone earlier than others, but this does not indicate whether a child will be advanced or delayed later in life.

This is a general guide, and if you are concerned with your baby’s development, please consult your pediatrician.

Newborn – 1 month

  • Basic reflexes: sucking, swallowing, coughing, gagging, grasping, blinking and startling.
  • Clenching their fists. Most of the time your baby will clench his or her fists.
  • Eyes are still uncoordinated and may even become crossed.
  • Eyes and hand movements are not coordinated yet.
  • They watch objects that are 12-15 inches away.
  • They examine their own hands and fingers.
  • They can distinguish smells and taste.
  • They communicate mostly by crying.
  • They develop preferences for certain sounds. For example, they can cry when they hear a dog bark or they can calm down when they hear mom sing.
  • They will turn in the direction of a familiar voice.

1 – 4 Months

  • When face down, they should be able to lift their head and chest.
  • Can move their head and look both ways.
  • Able to keep hands open and wrap fingers around objects.
  • Can move arms and legs around, such as little kicks as if they were swimming.
  • Tend to put things in their mouth.
  • Able to laugh, play peek-a-boo, and respond to tickles.

4 – 8 months

  • Their teeth might come in, causing swelling, irritation and fussiness.
  • Better hand and eye coordination, reaches for things to grab.
  • Hold bottle/breast on their own.
  • They can sit with the support of a pillow or a lap.
  • Turn on their own on a flat surface.
  • They may scoot backwards on their tummy before crawling forward.
  • May open their mouths in response to food on sight.
  • They copy expressions or movements (waving, surprised faces).
  • They may be able to focus on toys and other reachable objects.
  • Babble in rhythmic fashion.
  • Recognize their own name or nickname.
  • Repeat the same sounds over and over.
  • They may respond when something is taken away (crying over a toy).

8 – 12 months

  • Drink from a cup with assistance.
  • Use one hand to reach for things.
  • Can eat finger foods by themselves (cereal, raisins, etc.).
  • Sit up by themselves.
  • Crawl with ease.
  • Walk with support.
  • Imitate the movements of other children.
  • Point to objects.
  • Will drop what they are holding when offered something else.
  • Speak their first words.
  • Imitate words and sounds.
  • Agree or disagree by nodding or shaking their heads.
  • Become attached to a favorite toy or blanket.
  • Understand what “no” means.
  • May show separation anxiety.

12 – 18 months

  • Gets to a sitting position without help.
  • Pulls up to stand, “cruises” or walks holding on to furniture.
  • May take a few steps without help.
  • May stand alone.
  • Responds to simple spoken requests.
  • Uses simple gestures, for example, shaking head “no”, waving “bye-bye”.
  • Shows fear in some situations.
  • Can hand you a book, or a toy.
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention.
  • Helps in dressing, putting out arms or leg.
  • Can play games like “peek-a-boo” and “pat-a-cake”.
  • Can recognize and call out parents or caretakers.
  • Imitates words and sounds.
  • Explores surroundings and objects, touching, shaking, banging, throwing and biting.
  • Picks up small objects.
  • Feeds himself/herself with a spoon.
  • Can point and name objects.

18 – 24 months

  • Walk up and down stairs with help.
  • Put two words together, for example: “more milk”.
  • Takes off shoes and socks.
  • Copies other children.
  • Moves body in tune to music.

When to Seek Help

If your baby does not achieve a majority of these milestones within a reasonable period of time after the end of the stage or if your baby suddenly stops making progress over several weeks, contact your doctor. Only pediatricians and other healthcare professionals can diagnose developmental delays and suggest the appropriate steps to take.

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