Early Literacy

Getting Our Kids Ready for Kindergarten — Book Based Programming

At our library we have started to offer “Book Based Programming” to help our youngest customers be ready for kindergarten.*

Jenny, guest blogger, on left sharing book based literacy tips with mother of a preschooler

We offer our parent/caregiver customers a “mini program” (often one-on-one) on how to read a book with their child. When approaching a parent we might say something like:

“Today, at our library, we are talking to parents about how to read a book with their children. We already know that we read books by reading the words on the pages.  So, we are talking with parents about ways to bring important literacy skills “out of a book” while reading with a child.  We have learned that, while reading, it is important to talk about rhyming words, point out alphabet letters, ask questions about what we read, and learn the meaning of new words.  By focusing on these important literacy and language skills, you can help your child become a reader and have success in life!”

The next step involves sitting with the parents and sharing a picture book. We talk with the parents about what to do before, during and after reading a story.  Here are some examples of what we share:

Before reading the story:

  • Talk with your child about the cover.  Ask “What do you see on the cover?” and “What do you think might happen in this story?”
  • Slide your finger under the words of the title, author, and illustrator as you read and explain those words.

While reading the story:

  • Follow the words you read with your finger
  • Pause and talk about the pictures and the words.
    • Ask questions about the pictures.  Ask “How many babies are there?” and “How does the crocodile feel?”
    • Ask your child “Where are the words on this page?” Point to a word and name the letters that make up that word.  Clap the syllables in the word.
    • Ask your child “On this page, do you see any letters that are in your name?”
    • Point out any rhyming words — make up new rhyming words
    • Explain the meanings of new words
  • Make connections to something familiar to your child.  Ask “Have you been to a zoo?  What did you see at the zoo?”

After reading the story:

  • Ask your child, “Who are the characters in the story?” Write a list.
  • Ask your child, “What might happen next?”

Book based programming is a simple and easy concept.   All you need is a book and a parent!

However, you want to be prepared!  Read the book before sharing it with a parent.  You want to know what literacy aspects to focus on.

Book based programming allows us to have very meaningful conversations with our families.   After one program, a mother said, “I never knew there was so much I could do with a book!”

Are you doing something similar at your library?

*this type of programming is adapted from http://www.myreaditagain.com/ and The Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy


Jenny Oney is an Information Services Specialist at Main Children’s /Columbus Metropolitan Library in Columbus, Ohio where she loves to talk about early literacy to anyone who will listen!  She can be reached at joney@columbuslibrary.org

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.


  1. KathyK

    This a very interesting, personable and innovative approach. Thanks.

  2. Antoinette G

    Is this program presented in a workshop format for parents? Was it presented over more than one session? Thank you for sharing these wonderful techniques.

    1. Jenny Oney

      You are welcome! At our library we are talking to parents/caregivers who come to advertised programs (scheduled twice a week) and parents visiting the library asking for ways to help their children be ready for kindergarten. Also, we look for any “on the fly” opportunities to talk with parents. Talking to parents “on the fly” means we approach parents of young children when we see them in the library and ask if they would like to chat.

      This type of programming is very powerful and makes a great impact with our parents and caregivers. Feel free to email me and I can answer any other questions you might have.

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