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How libraries develop early literacy in communities

Child reading


Literacy acquisition, brain development and learning experiences

Literacy acquisition is a complex journey that begins in our earliest days as an infant and extends far beyond school years requiring proficiency in reading, writing, listening, speaking, decoding, information processing, and problem-solving amongst other skills practiced over many years.

The most active period of human brain growth and development is from birth to three years of age (ALIA, 2014). A child’s brain is 90% developed by five years of age. Repeated positive early experiences of language, rhyme and stories strengthen connections in a child’s brain. A child’s future success is influenced by a strong foundation in the early years, impacting lifelong learning, achievement at school and beyond, self-confidence, motivation, and both physical and mental health (Raising Literacy Australia, 2012).

Research also supports what we have known for many years, that it takes social experiences in families and communities to engage in literacy and learning experiences, for the best long term outcomes. Learning happens well before children are ‘school aged’ as babies learn to babble, and toddlers begin talking. Whether in school or out of school, young people thrive when they have opportunities to explore and discover their interests in a variety of spaces, including at home, in the community, and in public libraries (Public Library Association, 2016).


SA Public Libraries offer early literacy resources and programs

Public libraries support families by providing free literacy and learning resources, such as board and picture books, information books, toys, games and so forth. Public libraries offer early literacy programs, such as Storytime, Toddler Time, Baby Time and other state-wide programs developed in partnership with government departments/organisations to parents of 0 to five-year-olds. The programs link to the library collections, encouraging families to borrow and utilise library resources to consolidate and broaden learning.


Public library programs support the foundations for lifelong learning

Early learning sessions in public libraries provide the perfect opportunities to build the foundation for optimal brain development in the first five years. Babytime, Toddler Time and Storytime aim to do the following:

  • broaden children’s vocabulary and language development
  • foster an appreciation of books and reading
  • provide exposure to quality children’s literature
  • encourage social skills, routines, and other skills appropriate for school readiness
  • strengthen child-caregiver relationships
  • link in with other specific programs developed in partnership with government departments/organisations that explore STEM/STEAM concepts, numeracy concepts, family literacies etc. which complement the development of literacy skills


Public library programs encourage parent engagement in early literacy and learning

Through early literacy programs, public libraries support parents to be their child’s first teachers. Storytime, Toddler Time and Baby Time provide important opportunities for direct parent engagement in their child’s learning. The sessions promote literacy and language strategies and behaviours to use in the home through the modelling of reading stories, sharing songs, rhymes and chants, talking and conversing, and engaging in literacy based activities. They also share information with parents about literacy and learning development research, strategies and other initiatives eveloped in partnership with government departments and organisations.


‘Baby Time’: For newborn to two year olds

With names such as ‘Baby Rhyme Time’, ‘Wiggle Giggle Read’ or ‘Baby Bounce’, public libraries offer a range of fun, interactive way for parents and carers to introduce babies and children, from newborn to two years, to the enjoyment of sharing nursery rhymes, action songs and even simple percussion instruments. The sessions are lively, interactive and playful learning experiences for both babies and carers.

For program availability, further information and session times contact your local library.


‘Toddler Time’: For one to three year olds

Toddler Time builds on from Baby Time, encouraging early literacy and language development through nursery rhymes, finger plays, and short stories. Social and gross motor skill development are also enhanced through movement, songs and other play-based experiences. These sessions are aimed at one to three year olds, depending on the library services offering the program.

For program availability, further information and session times contact your local library.


‘Story Time’: For two to five year olds

Story time aims to introduce children to the magical world of books and reading with fun and engaging learning experiences in a safe environment. These sessions are aimed at two to five year olds.

Sessions may include stories, rhymes, songs, finger plays, a craft activity, and other play-based experiences. Younger siblings and friends are invited to attend.

For program availability, further information and session times contact your local library.



Australian Library and Information Association (2014). Early Literacy Framework and Strategy for Australian Public Libraries.


Public Library Association (2016). Family Engagement: Because student outcomes improve when parents are involved.


Raising Literacy Australia (2012). Building Foundations for Early Learning. The Big Book Club.