Early Literacy and ParentChild+

Early literacy provides children with the foundation they need to become successful learners. Research shows that literacy gives children an important set of tools for understanding and interacting with the world around them. But early literacy encompasses much more than learning to read the words in a book, and it begins well before a child walks through the doors of a classroom. As a parent, you are the gateway to your child’s language and literacy development.



What is “early literacy”?

Early literacy includes every encounter your child has with language — whether it’s hearing your voice, grasping (and even chewing on) a book, listening to and singing songs, seeing family members read, recognizing the shapes of letters and matching those shapes to the sounds letters make, and listening and responding to stories. The term “early literacy” describes far more than just the ability to read, write, and understand language. Early literacy starts at birth.

Where can parents begin?

Without even being aware that you were “teaching,” you’ve already started down the path of literacy with your child. There are ways to strengthen a young child’s ability to understand and use language in daily life:

  • Talk to and with your child
  • Sing to and with your child
  • Point out letters and words on signs and labels around the house or in the grocery store
  • Name letters and make their sounds
  • Show your child that reading is fun and relaxing by reading stories together and asking your child questions about the stories
  • Make books available at home, or by taking trips to the library or community family centers

Exploring the world of language with your child is beneficial and rewarding for parents, too: it’s a way to interact, learn about what your child is feeling and thinking, and gain insight into your child’s unique personality through watching how he or she responds to stories and questions.

We give you the building blocks for success. The Collaborative’s Early Childhood Programs connect parents to resources for strengthening early literacy skills and making reading fun.

Young Asian child with green bows in her hair sits at a table reading.

ParentChild+ Program

The ParentChild+ Program is a free early learning and literacy program for children between 16 months and 3 years of age and their parents. Structured around the most current research, this long-standing program has improved children’s literacy and helped parents learn how to interact with their children to develop literacy skills, improve their children’s school readiness, and increase their children’s chances of future academic success.

The ParentChild+ Program is made up of convenient 30-minute sessions with a trained Home Visitor, who will bring free educational books and toys for your child to keep, and help you in your role as your child’s first and most important teacher.

The Puzzle of Parenting -- Free Workshops for Parents

These workshops are free of charge and cover a full range of topics of interest to parents, from understanding and responding to your child’s behavior to strengthening the role you play in fostering your child’s learning. Workshops are led by Early Childhood staff with years of professional experience working with families with young children, and are offered throughout the Pioneer Valley to all parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

Early Literacy Events


The StoryWalk® project lets parents and children wander through the pages of favorite books — literally! Pages from picture books are placed throughout a public space and parents and children stroll together from page to page, reading as they go. StoryWalks® are a wonderful way to combine exercise and reading. Find out more about the StoryWalk® project and read about the summer 2011 South Hadley StoryWalk® in this article by Patricia Cahill (The Republican).

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