Language Development & Literacy

It is important to develop children’s language skills in early infancy. This does not mean teaching your baby to read or formal instruction. It means helping your child develop vocabulary and the ability to express themselves, which are the foundation skills for reading.

Babies learn language through their parents and caregivers in two major ways: 

  • When you interact with them using books, and 
  • When you engage with them through words, conversation, and questions. 

The more you speak and read to your child from birth to age 5, the better! There is lots of research showing the positive link between helping your child develop language skills as early and their long-term success in school and beyond.

Give Your Baby a Lifelong Advantage

Did you know…

  • 90% of your child’s brain development happens during their first 5 years.
  • Gaps in children’s vocabulary starts to appear as early as 18 months old.
  • Children entering school who are read to at least three times a week are twice as likely to recognize the alphabet, have word-sight recognition, and understand words in context.
  • By time children are 3 and 4 years old, their vocabulary and attention are predictors of 3rd and 4th grade reading comprehension.

The good news is that you can set your baby up with success by following three simple steps:

  • Read to your children under 5 at least three times a week. Even 10-15 minutes gives your child a big boost. Try making it a part of your daily routine, like at bedtime or naptime. 
  • Talk to your baby or child as you go about your day – describe what you are doing, ask them questions, count items out loud. Just hearing more words spoken around and to them can greatly improve the development of your child’s vocabulary.
  • Make books available to children and treat them as fun, engaging toys. If you show enthusiasm for reading, so will your children. 

How to Read to Your Baby

Watch this video to learn why to read to your baby and how to get started.

Reading is as important as ever as your baby grows. Here are the top five tips for reading together with your toddler.

Free Books & Resources

Imagination Library

Families in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties are eligible for free books through each county’s chapter of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. How it works:

Sign up!

  • You can register your child up online or contact your local library for help. Our WIC staff also has registration forms.
  • You can sign up any child in your household under age 5. 
  • Books are available to children as soon as they are born, so you can even sign up your baby ahead of time using their due date.

Get free books! 

  • Imagination Library will mail each registered child one free book each month from birth until they turn 5. That’s up to 60 free books!
  • Children of different ages receive different books that are appropriate for their developmental level.
  • There is absolutely no cost to families. Local charitable organizations raise funds for their county programs and Dolly Parton’s charitable foundation covers additional costs.
  • If you move, you can update your address to make sure you don’t miss any books.

Read with your child!

  • Use the day books come in the mail as a special occasion to read to and with your children. 
  • The more excited you are about reading, the more your children will be and the more likely they will become lifelong readers.

Your Public Library 

The public libraries in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties have lots of programs for children of all ages, including children from birth to age 5. Each library has branches in multiple places to make it easier for families to check out books for free and attend library events. 

Visit the calendars linked below for information on free story time, family fun events, and more.


Raising Readers

American Library Association 

First Things First

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