A variety of early literacy developmental needs suggests multiple early literacy tools.

Let’s consider three categories of tools in the pursuit of early literacy…


Category #1: Meeting Basic Needs

First, a word about basic needs. While I’m a huge fan of using literacy to guide child development, literacy is secondary to children’s basic needs being met. One detail I love about early literacy is sometimes the two go hand-in-hand, but this is not always the case.

Brain research tells us it is impossible to learn if basic needs are not being met. Basic needs we usually all agree on include water, food, shelter, & clothing. Depending who you ask you might also hear answers such as love, money, work, & family.

Whether you consider the second list essential for basic survival or not, we know those “secondary” answers impact sustainable survival, especially in the case of the most vulnerable. Global statistics & the most recent US census tells us the primary needs of children are not being met, so let’s start with the acknowledgement of realistic need in our world & country.

Life is hard, and our needs are unique. We constantly have to make distinctions between needs & wants. For example – where would you say learning fits on Maslow’s pyramid? How about literacy?

For me, conversation about literacy suggests basic needs are being met so learning is possible. You will call me an idealist, but I envision a world where everyone has the opportunity to have this conversation. Therefore, meeting basic needs is the first category of tools in the pursuit of early literacy. Sometimes all a child needs is a snack to help their brain work!

Is there someone around you who needs something today? How can you help?

If you are in Spokane & would like to help, or if you or someone you know needs assistance with shelter, clothing or food, here is one resource.


Category #2: Books & More

The next category of early literacy tools is the one we traditionally think of – books, teaching manipulatives & other items that directly aid reading & writing skills.


Books are one of the primary tools of early literacy. Schools use leveled books when teaching reading in the primary grades & textbooks are a college staple. Successful bibliotherapy is connected to increased emotional health.

Book choice is one of the biggest early literacy challenges parents & teachers face as the number of options is limitless. Using development to inform book choice can help. Read Using Development to Guide Book Choice

Libraries are a great free resource for finding books, and sometimes host book sales as well. You can also find books at garage sales, second-hand stores, and online. A few of my favorites are Amazon, Barnes and Noble & AbeBooks.

If you would like to donate children’s books in Spokane, here is some more info.


More most often means teaching manipulatives, such as an alphabet puzzle, magnet letters or something like these wooden pieces for teaching handwriting. It includes early writing tools as well, such as a magnadoodle.

It can also mean common household objects, such as toothpicks used to create basic shapes, a field trip or a piece of music. Anything that aids positive child development, learning and/or language skills!


Category #3: Your Team

The third category of early literacy tools is a team of people who can support you (your children, classroom, company) in your journey to pursue literacy. Covid-19 has reminded us all we need a team of people. Whether you are rich or poor and wherever you live, you will need encouragement & help.

Choosing to intentionally communicate & practice language & learning skills doesn’t have to be impossible, drudgery or all up to you. They say it takes a village to raise a child! Retail employees, classroom teachers & healthcare workers all have important roles to play as the global pandemic has recently emphasized.  

In addition to meeting basic needs, & utilizing books & more, take some time to consider who can support you (and who you can support).