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Aug 23

Early Literacy Skill: Background Knoweldge

Posted on August 23, 2017 at 11:51 AM by Allie Barton

At the Sherman Public Library during Storytime and Baby&Me we focus on five activities that parent/caregivers can use to help their children enter school ready to learn to read: singing, talking, reading, writing, and playing. These practices are all part of developing early literacy skills such as phonological awareness, vocabulary, print awareness, letter knowledge, and background knowledge. Researchers found that when children had a solid foundation in these early literacy skills when they came to school, it was easier for them to learn how to read (Library of Virginia). Some of these words are just really big words for easy practices that parents/caregivers can do at home to ensure that their children are ready to read. Today, I want to focus on background knowledge and how parents/caregivers can use talking and reading with their child to increase this early literacy skill.

Background knowledge is prior things that the child has learned. This is vital in helping children understand what they will read. There are simple things that parents/caregivers can do in order to increase a child's background knowledge. This might seem too simple: talk to your child. Talk to your child while you drive. Talk to your child while you change their diaper. Talk to your child in the supermarket. Talk! Talk! Talk! When you’re reading about trains, talk about what you know about trains. Not only will this increase their background knowledge about trains, but it will increase their vocabulary. For example, our first Storytime theme this Fall (starting Tuesday, September 5th!) will be about our state Texas! We're going to read some fun stories about Texas, but we're also going to talk about facts that we know about Texas.
Example interactions that might occur during our storytime:
"The monarch butterfly is the state bug, or insect. Have you seen a monarch butterfly like the one in this picture?"
"The armadillo is the state animal. They have a hard shell that protects them from predators. Do you know what a predator is?"
We're using new words. We're learning new words. And we are increasing our background knowledge.
So whether you are reading a book or taking a walk with your baby you can easily increase their background knowledge by simply engaging them in talking about what you know and as they get older, asking them questions about what they know as well. 

These concepts are partly based on the second edition of Every Child Ready to Read®, a project of the American Library Association. (

We can't wait for Storytimes and Baby&Me to pick up again. Storytimes (for ages 18months to 5 years old) pick up again on Tuesday, September 5th and Wednesday, September 6th at 10:00 am.  Baby&Me (for ages 18 months and under) starts Monday, September 11th at 10:00 am. Both will be in the MLK Building at 1003 N. East Street, right across from the temporary library. We hope to see you there!