Check It Out: Hone your child’s early reading skills

Storytime at the library is a time-honored tradition. But do you know why?

You might think it is because children’s librarians love reading and sharing books — and yes, that is one driving factor, but there’s more to it than that.

All the songs, rhymes, stories and flannel board presentations help children build foundational literacy skills that help them succeed in school and create a base for future learning. Plus, storytime is fun!

Five early literacy skills are emphasized in storytime: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Librarians find all kinds of ways of incorporating these early literacy elements into storytimes. And you can incorporate these same skills in everyday interactions with your child.

Talking: Young children need to hear the language they will eventually speak in order to learn it. They can understand words long before they can speak them — look to see how your child responds. Stories and conversations help children learn new words and how to express themselves. For example, a librarian reading a book might pause to explain a word. This two-sentence “interruption” of the story is a learning opportunity for the children listening.

Singing: Singing is another way to help children learn new words. It slows down language so children can hear the different sounds. Singing develops listening and memory skills. And last but not least, singing is a fun bonding experience — whether you’re a good singer or not! If you are still self-conscious about your voice, play a CD of children’s songs to help you out.

At the library, we use iPods and speakers to help us with songs — it is a joy to see children perk up when they hear the music to one of their favorite songs.

Reading: Reading together remains the single most effective way to help children become proficient readers. Reading helps develop vocabulary and comprehension. It introduces children to words they may not hear in everyday conversation.

Children who enjoy books, and time spent looking at books, are more likely to want to learn to read themselves. Little eyes are often glued to the pages of books shared in storytimes. They want to drink in every aspect of the illustrations and may want to hear the words repeated again and again.

Writing: This is one early reading skill that is not directly addressed in library storytimes. The librarian may point out specific letters or sounds in a book, and some storytimes end with a simple craft activity.

But don’t be fooled: Writing practice such as drawing or scribbling goes hand in hand with reading. Drawing helps develop eye-hand coordination and fine motor control. It might not be words, but the lines and pictures your children draw mean something to them. Be sure to allow many opportunities for your child to practice his/her writing skills.

Playing: One of the primary ways children learn about language and how the world works is through playing. Play helps children practice putting thoughts into words. Children practice becoming adults and process what they see and hear every day through play.

Successful storytimes encourage children and parents to enjoy the time they spend together. Librarians encourage and lead these group “play” sessions through dance, stories and music.

One of the newest storytimes offered at the Newport Beach Public Library is “Songs and Stories,” a storytime for children 2 to 5 with an emphasis on stories and music that also incorporates guided movement, yoga and instruments. Please join us at 3 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of every month at the Mariners Branch, or on Friday mornings at 10:30 a.m. at the Corona del Mar Branch.

These exciting offerings, along with all of the other excellent storytimes offered at the Newport Beach libraries, are a great way to introduce your child to beneficial early literacy practices. See the kids calendar at for a full listing of storytime times and locations. Come on down to the library to talk, sing, read, write and play!

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.