Andrea Kaucher: You are your child’s first, best teacher

As one of JCPL’s children’s librarians, I often present storytimes, which are a combination of books, songs and rhymes geared toward children from birth to age five. Sometimes, it may look like I’m just having fun (and yes, that’s true), but hidden behind the silly voices, sometimes squeaky singing, and always awkward dancing, I’m helping your child develop important early literacy skills. And you can too.

It’s actually pretty simple. If you READ, WRITE, SING, TALK, and PLAY with your child every day, you are preparing them to read independently. Thanks to the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, these activities are known among librarians as “The Five Practices,” and I incorporate each one into the storytimes that I present. Let’s look at how you can easily add The Five Practices into your daily life.

READ: Read to your child. You can snuggle up together with a book (great for building fond memories and early literacy skills), but you can also point out words and read them to your child wherever you are. Read the toothpaste tube, the “Caution Automatic Door” sign, that cookie recipe, etc., because reading this type of text aloud helps your child learn that words are all around them and that they share important information.

WRITE: Give your child crayons and let them scribble away. Reading and writing skills develop together. If your baby is too young for crayons, you can still recite fingerplays like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or sing songs like “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” together. When your child moves their fingers independently of each other, they improve their fine motor skills, which will help them pick up those crayons when they’re a little older.

SING: Sing along to your favorite songs. When you sing, you naturally break words into distinct syllables — which helps your child hear the smaller parts of words. Remember that you can also make up your own songs to familiar tunes. And don’t worry if you squeak a little on the high notes. Your child doesn’t care.

TALK: Talk through your daily activities, feelings and ideas with your child. When you give them these words, you increase their vocabulary and help them make sense of the world around them. This background knowledge will be key in helping them understand what they are reading later.

PLAY: Playing pretend is a great way to help your child form symbolic thinking. When your child pretends that a cardboard tube is a telescope or a sword or a magic wand, they learn that one object can stand for another — which helps them understand that letters written on the page can stand for the spoken word.

Another simple way to incorporate The Five Practices into your daily life is to join the JCPL children’s librarians in our Zoom Into Storytime sessions. We offer these storytimes at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays. We also offer a monthly evening session at two of our branches. Please register for your preferred day(s) and time(s) on our website,, to receive the Zoom link. And be sure to pick up a storytime kit (complete with rhythm sticks, scarf, shaker egg and bubbles) from your closest JCPL branch so that your child can tap, wave, shake and dance along with your friendly Children’s Librarian.

Most of all, please know that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher, and your JCPL children’s librarians are here to support you in your efforts to develop early literacy skills in fun and creative ways. So READ, TALK, WRITE, SING and PLAY together every day.

Andrea Kaucher is a children’s librarian for the Johnson County Public Library. Library staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].