Wouldn't it be nice if someone would just give you a list -- when your child is two, read these books; when your child is three, read these . . .? If you've been looking for the perfect literacy development recipe, stop searching! No such prescription is possible.

While there is information about the expected sequence of child development, it is also well established that no two children are exactly alike. Every child develops in a unique and highly individualized way. Among early childhood educators, the prevailing philosophy is that we must pay attention to what we know about how children develop, as well as what we learn about the individual needs and ineterests of the specific child. This approach to early childhood education is known as developmentally appropriate practice.

While it is impossible to develop the perfect, age-specific reading list, there are certain book characteristics to look for as you select materials to read to your developing child.


  • Simple and repetitive songs and poems
  • Classic nursery rhymes
  • Hand and finger games
  • Sturdy books made from cloth, cardboard, and plastic that the child can handle and chew on
  • Old magazines and catalogs to examine and tear


  • Books about daily life and the toddler's world
  • Simple predictable plots with repetitive phrases
  • Books that invite chatting, chanting, humming, and dancing
  • Illustrations that include objects the toddler can identify -- "point and say books."


  • Traditional folk, fairytales, and fables
  • Wordless picture books that allow pre-schoolers to develop their own stories
  • Books about first experiences, achievement, and problem solving
  • Increasingly complex plot lines
  • Easy-to-read books with controlled vocabularies

And remember . . .

It is the language and social interaction that surround the reading, not just the words and pictures of the book itself, that foster literacy development. So, have fun with books! Re-read old favorites again and again. Share a wide variety of books with your child -- storybooks, concept books, information books, poetry books, books about people like you and about people who are different.

READ! READ! READ! Just 20 minutes a day can make all the difference in your child's life!

Prepared by the Texas Library Association Children's Round Table and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

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Page last modified: October 23, 2012