Professional Development Books: Literacy and Language

Did you see the recent blog post on ALSC by the two ladies behind The Cardigan calling for more free professional development for children’s librarians? Hear, hear. One of the ways I try to get in my professional development is to read books relating to serving children and working in libraries.

Today I’m sharing the first of a series of blog posts on professional development books. This week is all about literacy and language – how do we learn to talk, how can we support emergent literacy, what does the newest brain research tell us? These books seek to answer these questions. Other posts in this series will include books about programming support and child development. Stay tuned!

Did I miss one of your favourite books on this topic? I’d love to learn about it in the comments!

Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age – From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between (2014) by Jason Boog
The author consults authors, librarians, publishers, and child development experts to piece together a year-by-year guide to instilling a love of reading in your children. Includes reading on a variety of technology – from books to screens.

Growing a Reader From Birth: Your Child’s Path from Language to Literacy (2004) by Diane McGuinness
I think this book was my bible in my early literacy course during my MLIS degree. Go from babbling to developing vocabulary to reading print and learn the science behind what’s happening in a child’s brain. An essential read.

Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 3 (2011) edited by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson
For those looking for research studies about early literacy, this is the tome for you! Studies cover brain development, language development, self-regulation, sociocultural contexts, and early intervention. I wish there were more recent volumes.

How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life (2000) by Roberta Michnick and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Written by developmental psychologists this book takes you on a chronological journey through learning language. I like their “try this” asides where they offer concrete things to do with your baby to encourage language development.

Many Languages, Building Connections: Supporting Infants and Toddlers Who Are Dual Language Learners (2012) by Karen N. Nemeth
This thin book is aimed mostly at preschools and daycares, but it includes chapters on how to welcome diverse families and engage them in your programs. Sample training worksheets are included in the back.

Proust and Squid: The Story of Science and the Reading Brain (2007) by Maryanne Wolf
Written by a cognitive neuroscientist and child development expert, this book takes you on a journey of how the brain learns how to read. Language is natural to humans; reading is not. It’s a tough skill you have to learn, and Wolf shows why some kids will struggle with it. This one’s got an evolutionary lens I love.

Raising a Bilingual Child (2007) by Barbara Zurer Pearson
If you’ve ever been asked by a storytime caregiver if it’s okay to speak more than one language to a child, then you definitely need this book. Pearson covers the benefits of bilingualism and how to create a bilingual home environment. As a children’s librarian this book gives me the knowledge to talk about this subject with my community.

The Read-Aloud Handbook (2019) by Jim Trelease
The 8th edition of this classic comes out this year! Like Mem Fox, Trelease is interested in helping families read aloud to kids. He tells you why and how to do it, and includes an updated read aloud booklist with new diverse titles.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever (2001) by Mem Fox
Australian literary expert Fox presents an easy-to-read guide for how to read aloud to small children and why its so important for their development. I found it a little commanding in tone at times, but the three secrets of reading are not intimidating for parents.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them (2014) by Jefffrey D. Wilhelm and Michael W. Smith
Finally a book about school-age kids! Mostly geared towards schools and teachers, librarians can use the arguments in this book to push for reading for pleasure and the many educational benefits it can bring. A great choice for parents who are questioning lexile levels and other reading measurements.

Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens (2015) by Lisa Guernsey and Michael H. Levine
These two authors are known for their research and writing on digital media and young children, and in this book they present an argument for why “we cannot allow technology to exacerbate social inequalities” (ix). They dive into a world of raising readers alongside smart phones and tablets – a critical, balanced view that urges us to do the same.

Time to Talk: What You Need to Know About Your Child’s Speech and Language Development (2017) by Michelle MacRoy-Higgins and Carlyn Kolker
Written by a speech-language pathologist, this book covers language acquisition milestones for a typically developing child. The goal is to demystify the process of learning language for parents and caregivers, and there’s lots of great tidbits we can use as early literacy tips in storytime.

Any you’ve read and loved? Please let me know!

10 thoughts on “Professional Development Books: Literacy and Language

    1. I’ve got both of those on my Program Planning list which will be coming out soon! Two of my favourites ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Thank you so much for including Born Reading on this inspiring list, I am proud to join those other writers.

    If there is ever anything I can help with your campaign to encourage “more free professional development for childrenโ€™s librarians,” please let me know. I learned everything I know from children’s librarians and take my kids to the library every single weekend.

    1. I feel lucky that test measures such as lexile haven’t caught on here in Vancouver. I remember having to use them as a teacher down in Oregon and it always frustrated me when kids weren’t allowed to read things they wanted because it was “out of their range.”

  2. Reading Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover had a profound impact on me as a teacher and the way I taught reading/writing. Some of that has carried over to the way I talk about writing and create opportunities for writing in storytime. I have so much appreciation for young children’s existing capabilities as meaning-makers and storytellers! I really do think that if we wait to start respecting their voices and abilities as readers and writers until they start school, we do them a great disservice.

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