Early Literacy Messages: Using Personal Stories

Fostering early literacy skills, also known as emergent literacy, is one of my favourite parts about storytime.  I’ve written before about how I include early literacy tips in my storytimes here:

I try really hard to find ways to communicate these things in a friendly, approachable manner.  One of the best ways I’ve found is to couch them in a (very) short personal story.  Now I’m lucky I have a 4-year-old niece in my life that gives me tons of early literacy fodder.  If you don’t have a little one, feel free to adapt my stories!  If I hear a good story from a friend or co-worker I’ll ask their permission to share it in storytime.

reading 4
Farting pony books FTW!

Here are some of my favourite stories about Sophie I tell in storytime to communicate early literacy development.

A Bumpy Road

I used to do this bounce with Sophie when she was a baby all the time.  Then one day when she was about 2-years-old I was pushing her in her stroller and we hit a tree root.  She excitedly exclaimed, “bumpy road!”  It was amazing to see how she had learned new words and a new concept from a simple lap bounce. They really are paying attention!

We Bounce and Bounce and Bounce and Stop

Some songs grow with your child. The other day I took Sophie out to dinner and she was getting quite bored waiting for the food. I plopped her on my lap and started to do this lap bounce.  She was enthralled. Now that she’s four she was able to contribute her own verses such as “We wiggle” and “We shake.” Not only did a song keep her occupied, but it was a great chance for us to cuddle and learn together.

The Frog Goes Tissy, Tissy, Tiss

One of Sophie’s favourite songs when she was a toddler was “Mmm, Ahh Went the Little Green Frog.” However, she liked to switch the verses and insisted that the frog goes, “tissy, tissy, tiss.”  Even though she couldn’t pronounce the “k” sound as a toddler, this song helped her practice it in a fun way.  Rather than correcting her pronunciation, we just sang this verse a lot!

Sophie, Put Your Shoes On

If you’ve ever struggled with getting a baby or small child dressed I totally feel you! When my niece was a toddler I would sing this song about all the items of clothing she needed to put on – shoes, socks, gloves, hat.  When I subbed in her name for “baby” she payed more attention, and it helped turn a struggle into a more enjoyable activity.

Oh, I Wish I Was a Little Bar of Soap


When Sophie was about one she developed a fear of taking baths. She didn’t like getting wet, she would scream when we tried to put her in the tub – it was a stressful situation for all.  Then one day I took one of her toys and started to sing this song. The crying stopped! I had to sing this song about 20 times during every bath time but it helped calmed her.

Let’s Stack the Books

stack of books

It’s common for kids to go through stages where they either don’t appear interested in reading or don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to a story.  When Sophie was a toddler my focus was on making books fun, even if we weren’t reading them.  This sometimes meant grabbing a stack of board books (not the ones pictured!) and making a tower together.  We might only look at one page before getting back to building, but books were still a part of our daily routine.

I Can’t Read

moo

One time Sophie and I were reading a book and I asked her to read it to me.  She looked at me incredulously and said, “I can’t read!” We had “read” books together before where she “reads” the pictures, so I was startled by her declaration.  One of the ways I’ve tried to build her confidence since then is to find books without words or with only one word. One of our favourites is Moo! by David LaRochelle.  She loves that she knows the word in the book and can “read” the book to me.

Do you have any personal stories you share at storytime to communicate the importance of early literacy? I’d love to hear them!

2 thoughts on “Early Literacy Messages: Using Personal Stories

  1. Fabulous stories! I, too, am an Auntie, but my nieces and nephew are nearly 50 and 30 at this point, so with your permission I will gladly share some of your Sophie stories. I especially like the one about stacking. We have many excellent stackers in my baby and toddler story time program and I know parents will appreciate this idea.

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