Exposure to Books

Children need to have high-quality books become a part of their daily experiences.


The classroom library should be well stocked with a variety of high-quality books and magazines. Children should have the opportunity to select their own books, and the teacher should also suggest books to extend an idea for a classroom activity or to suit an individual child’s interest.

Child Care and Literacy

Increasing numbers of very young children are spending time in day care settings, where the main focus has traditionally been on providing good physical care. Literacy enrichment has not been a high priority.

One major obstacle to high-quality day care is the lack of good books in many day care and preschool settings. In one interesting program, a private foundation, a major city library system, and five surrounding county libraries teamed up with a university researcher, early childhood professionals, and day care teachers to bring literacy to the care of children from infancy through age five. The goal: to increase exposure to print and meaningful language among very young children.

In what they called the Great Book Flood of 1996, 322 child care centers serving 17,675 mainly poor children received large quantities of high-quality books—at a ratio of five per child. They also received materials needed to create book areas and library corners. Teachers received 10 hours of training in early literacy development, storybook reading techniques, book selection, and book-related activities. Libraries participated by offering speakers, activities, and celebrations focused on books.

At the end of the program, teachers reported that they read more frequently and for longer periods to their children each day, in addition to giving them greater access to books in the classroom. Children showed substantial benefits, with improvements in their competence at narration, concepts of print, concepts of writing, and letter knowledge. The children continued to show gains at a follow-up study during their kindergarten year.

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