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Every Child Ready to Read: Talking Tips

Each month, Children’s Specialists at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh visit the Allegheny County Jail to present early literacy activity ideas to caregivers who are incarcerated. During our presentation this month, we offered two ideas about an important early literacy activity: talking.

First, we shared a wordless picture book – Chalk by Bill Thomson. With only images and each other as guides, we talked through the action on each page. The story follows a group of children as they discover the rules of magical chalk in the park. Storm clouds, beautiful butterflies and gigantic dinosaurs inspire open ended questions – what would you draw if you had magical chalk? And, would you share it?

Next, we passed around a box filled with different objects. One participant described the toy fish they pulled out as a creature with “curious eyes, a green belly and a red nose, like Rudolph”. We learned that their child knew about the character Rudolph. With both of these descriptors, this caregiver  showed they are ready to work on building vocabulary and recall skills with their child through talking.

Cover for the book, Chalk.

Young children have a larger listening vocabulary than speaking vocabulary. With this in mind, explore the why and how of talking with your child.


  • Talking helps children learn how words sound.​
  • Talking illustrates what words mean, which increases a child’s vocabulary.
  • Talking shows how words make sentences and communicate ideas​.
  • Talking teaches how words relate to the familiar world of a child.


  • Converse about everyday life. We are putting away our toys. We are going to see our neighbor soon!
  • Talk about your day and recount events you shared together. We had breakfast. Then, we went to storytime. Now it is time for lunch and a nap.
  • Talk about things you see throughout your day. Look at that bus! What color is it? Wow, this crayon is red, just like the crayons we have at home.
  • Point to things and have your child repeat .​
  • Share personal stories.

Talking is one of five activities you can incorporate into your daily routine to help your child get ready to read. These activities are part of an initiative called Every Child Ready to Read that is rooted in public libraries as cornerstones of early literacy in communities.

Angela is a Children’s & Teen Librarian at CLP – Squirrel Hill. She is an extremely slow reader and bicyclist, but really loves both.

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