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About Grow A Reader

Grow a reader

Mid-Continent Public Library is dedicated to providing programs and materials to stimulate children’s imagination and prepare them to read at grade level. As part of our 50th anniversary celebration, MCPL launched an all-encompassing program called Grow A Reader that will provide age-appropriate children’s activities and parent education to encourage the necessary pre-reading, reading, and school-readiness skills for ages birth to 11. The Grow A Reader program’s mission is to cultivate literacy skills that prepare children for lifelong success.

Early literacy storytimes at the library help children develop these skills. Find a storytime for you and your child to attend at your local branch.



Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to people talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and their meanings.

  • Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Respond to what your child says and extend the conversation by using specific words. Example: “Yes, that is a truck. It is called a bulldozer.”
  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk. At the store, in the car, and during morning routines, are chances for you and your children to talk.
  • Early Literacy Storytimes at your library are a great way to start talking about literacy.



Listening helps build vocabulary and teaches children to learn to distinguish letters.

Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing slows down language so that children can hear the different sounds and parts that make up words.

  • Sing with your children any chance you have. Sing nursery rhymes, pop tunes, or old favorites with enthusiasm.
  • Check out CDs and downloadable music from your library.
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so that children hear the syllables in words.
  • Move to the music. Children develop motor skills as they spin, dance, twirl, and clap.



Reading together is the single most important way to help children get ready to read, and it increases vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them. Children who are read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

  • Make reading interactive. Talk about the pictures in books. Ask children to predict what will happen when you turn the page. Have them retell the story in their own words.
  • Create a special space for you and your child to read. Make it comfortable and accessible so that reading is an enjoyable experience.
  • Lead by example. Show your child that reading is important by taking the time to read on your own.



Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information.

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other nonsensical markings. Encourage this by providing opportunities to draw and write.
  • Writing helps kids understand that written words represent ideas, places, and events.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw, and write captions and stories together.



Children learn about language through play. Play helps children understand that spoken and written words stand for real objects, concepts, and experience. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.

  • Give your child plenty of unstructured play time.
  • Encourage kids to use their imaginations. Have a place with inexpensive items such as puppets, costumes, games, books, and everyday household objects that children can use for imaginative play.



Listening helps build vocabulary and teaches children to learn to distinguish letter sounds and word parts. Listening to your children helps them develop a sense of importance and confidence. Pausing to listen and give children time to respond helps them learn the dynamics of conversation.

  • Eye contact is important in the act of listening. This visual cue helps your child connect to you when they are talking and assists in getting responses from them.
  • Point out sounds in the world around you and talk about them with your child. Animal noises, construction clatters, familiar voices, and the sounds of your neighborhood are all distinct parts of your child’s world.
  • Play games that encourage listening such as Red Light-Green Light, Simon Says, Reverse Musical Chairs, or Freeze Tag. Games like these making learning to listen fun!



Rhyming slows down language so that children can hear the different parts and sounds that make up words. Singing and dancing are fun and it builds gross motor skills. Singing tells a story, builds vocabulary, and helps with memory development.

  • Travel songs and the car, splish-splash-singing in the tub, lullabies at bed time, are all places to share singing with your children. Don’t be afraid if you voice is not pitch perfect, your children love to sing.
  • Silence is a part of rhyming, and all children need to learn how to stop what they are doing. Playing games like freeze dancing helps children practice and hone their stopping skills.
  • Rhyming can be used to help ease transitions. Recite rhymes to help children catch on to cues that get them to sit down, clean up, and other activities that are difficult to transition through. These secret codes help children learn self-control and helps parents avoid power struggles with little ones.



Sharing books is the single most important activity that you do with your children to get them ready to read. Pointing out text and pictures in books with children helps them anchor those images to things found in the real world. You are your child’s first teacher, sharing experience like reading is vital piece of early childhood development.

  • Share books with photographs as well as illustrations. This helps babies connect flat objects in books that can be hard to interpret to real world things.
  • Gibberish is important! Repeat the cooing and babbling sounds that babies make. It is the first step in language development.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your children’s favorite books over and over again. It builds a sense of confidence in knowing the story and helps them recognize print words in the story.
  • Sharing books that complement your child’s interests will help them develop a love of reading.
  • Share the fun…. Pick books that offer opportunities for call and response between you and your child.



Allowing your children time for free creation helps develop reading skills. Creations helps develop fine skills in children when they draw with crayons and markers, lace with string or yarn, or squish and play with finger paints, pudding, shaving cream, and play dough. Creating art is an unplugged way of strengthening hand-eye coordination. Creation is an amazing self-expression.

  • Encourage the creation. There is no wrong way to draw, scribble, write, or create art.
  • Let your baby play with their food. Organic finger-paints anyone…this simple sensory play encourages early literacy development
  • Create with odds and ends around your house. Shaving cream, pudding, glue, play dough, chalk, crayons, blank paper are all doorways to creation. Don’t be afraid, remember that messes clean-up.
  • Writing letters helps children realize that each letter has its own name and sounds
  • Have kids draw out recipes and grocery lists.



Using your imagination helps develop problem solving and critical thinking skills. It also helps kids express themselves and put thoughts into words. Using your imagination and role playing helps children understand that written words stand for real life concepts and objects. It also validates creative expressions and teaches children how to think outside the box.

  • When playing, get up close and personal and make your voice playful, too.
  • Something as simple as playing with blocks, even if baby is just putting them in their mouth, it is the beginning of critical thinking and problem solving. Through play children discover the world around them and how things work.
  • Use puppets, stuffed animals, hats, costumes, or toys from around the house to reenact your favorite stories.
  • Try role playing with kids at home. Have your child wear and apron and help them pretend to mix dough, knead it, roll it, and bake it in the oven. Pretend to be a customer entering their bakery hoping to buy some baked goods.

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