You are your child’s first teacher. But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re here to help you! Come on in for an interactive storytime, check out some books, sign up for a class, or use our online resources to learn what you can do at home.
What is Early Literacy?
Early literacy is what children know about communication, language, reading, and writing before they can actually read and write. It is all of a child’s early experiences with language, stories, books, and print.
Early literacy matters because many of Anchorage's young children enter kindergarten without proper early literacy skills. These literacy skills are necessary for children to learn how to read AND to become good readers. When a child reads well, it leads to greater success in school (including high school graduation), higher self-esteem, and wider choices and options in life after they leave school. During the first three years of a child’s life, the brain develops at an extremely fast rate. This is when children are more receptive to gaining language and literacy skills. It is critical that during this time we promote early literacy.
Parents and caregivers are a child’s first teachers. You may not think of yourself as a teacher, but children learn about new words and concepts by interacting with caring adults. To encourage early literacy development in the infants and toddlers in your life, caregivers are encouraged to use five practices:
- Reading. Listening to books read aloud passes along numerous skills. Choose books that you both enjoy and read 15-20 minutes every day.
- Singing. Songs and rhymes help slow down language and assign a note or beat to each syllable. This helps children hear the different sounds that make up words. Sing songs from your childhood or songs you make up together.
- Playing. Open-ended play helps children put thoughts into words and think symbolically. Have fun and be silly playing imaginative and interactive games.
- Talking. Narrate your daily routines and ask open-ended questions to teach new words and concepts to grow your child's brain. Use the language that you are most comfortable and confident using.
- Writing. Drawing, scribbling, and coloring are the beginnings of writing skills. Encourage open-ended drawing and fine motor activities to prepare your child to learn to write.
Ask a librarian for help finding books to share with your child and come to one of our weekly storytimes to see the early literacy practices in action!
Early Literacy Organizations
Enjoy these Anchorage and Alaska specific resources for early childhood education, early literacy, and kindergarten readiness.
- thread - Find childcare and early childhood education options.
- Anchorage School District: Kindergarten - Local resources for getting ready for Kindergarten
- Best Beginnings - Alaska-focused activities for early learning
- Anchorage Imagination Library - All children under the age of 5 and residing in the Municipality of Anchorage are eligible to receive books through this program.
- PIC AK - Programs for Infants and Children, Alaska, assessment and special needs and developmental assistance for children up to age 3.
The Library has themed reading kits for children ages 0-5. Each kit is a bag containing books on a theme such as "Friends," "Bugs," or "Things That Go," as well as suggested activities, tips, and a puppet or toy. Reading Kits are available at Loussac and can be requested for pick up at other APL libraries. Kits are checked out for 3 weeks and are renewable.
Read with Me Bags (ages 0-2)
- Contain 10 board books, a toy, and early literacy tips and activities.
Lapsit Bags (ages 1-3)
- Contain 5-6 books, a music CD, a puppet/toy, and ideas for fingerplays, songs and action rhymes.
Storypackets (ages 3-5)
- Contain 8 picture and 1 nonfiction book suitable for preschoolers and a puppet/toy.
Little Sprouts Book Club Tubs (ages 0-3)
- Contain 10 identical copies of a board book and 10 shaker eggs to be used in a group setting at home or at a childcare facility.
Raise a Reader Bags (adult caregivers of children ages 0-5)
- Contain 5-6 continuing education/ resource books for adult caregivers of young children on a variety of early literacy topics.
1,000 Books Before Kindergarten
The Anchorage Public Library has made a commitment to kindergarten readiness by encouraging all preschool-aged children to read 1,000 books before Kindergarten. It’s a realistic goal: grown-ups can share two to three picture books with their child in about 20 minutes, and if done daily, that can add up to 1,000 books in just a single year! That means that even if children sign up at age four, they can still meet their goal before kindergarten begins.
The program itself is simple: as you spend time reading with your child, keep track of the number of books you share with them or that they listen to during library storytimes by coloring in a circle on the log. Each time you read a book counts toward the goal, so if your little one has a favorite that you read over and over again, each reading counts toward the goal.
Sign up at any Anchorage Public Library location or download your First Reading Log and get started today! When you finish your log, come to any Anchorage Public Library location to get your next log and a special sticker. When you finish 1,000 books, you will receive your very own Alaska-themed book to keep!
Already started your log? Find the next one you need below!
Countdown to Kindergarten
The year before kindergarten is important in helping your child feel ready and confident in starting school. There are lots of practical skills to master to be ready for success in addition to early literacy skills. Programs like Countdown to Kindergarten will let your child practice these skills with you in a safe environment.
Between August 2021 and June 2022, the library will be hosting a series of Countdown to Kindergarten events at various library branches around the city. No registration is required and attending multiple events is encouraged! Countdown to Kindergarten is for children 3 to 5 years old with their adult caregivers. Families and siblings are welcome.
Participating children can earn free books plus other awesome prizes by completing this year's passport! You can earn stamps on your passport by participating in Countdown to Kindergarten events at locations around Anchorage and/ or online and by completing the bonus challenges. Passports can be picked up at any in-person event or you can download one here.
Countdown to Kindergarten is sponsored by the Anchorage School District. To learn more information about the program and kindergarten readiness, including ASD enrollment information, visit their website at: https://www.asdk12.org/countdowntokindy
In-Person Event Schedule*
All events are at 11 AM unless otherwise noted.
- February 5 - Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw Street
- February 12 @ 11:30AM (immediately following Family Storytime) - Z. J. Loussac Library, 3600 Denali Street
- April 2 - Muldoon Library, 1251 Muldoon Road, Suite 158
- June 4 - Z. J. Loussac Library, 3600 Denali Street
* In-person events subject to change.
Virtual Event Schedule
These events will be held over Zoom. Visit the ASD Countdown to Kindergarten website for connection information: https://www.asdk12.org/countdowntokindy
- January 19, 7:00PM
- February 16, 7:00PM
- More dates coming soon!
Anchorage LENA Start Classes
LENA Start is a free, 10-week online program for parents and caregivers of children ages 0-33 months that teaches families how to use conversation to build babies’ brains. This program is being offered to Anchorage residents through a partnership between the Anchorage Public Library and Best Beginnings.
Why LENA Start?
The most important time in life for your baby’s brain is the first 36 months, while their brain is growing the most. Children’s brains develop one million neural connections every second during this time. This means the years before a child turns three are a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something wonderful.
You are your child’s first teacher. Interactive talk between caregiver and child helps close the early-talk gap, support kindergarten readiness, and build stronger families. This back and forth conversation, called a “turn”, has been linked to brain structure and long-term outcomes for a child’s language skills, social and emotional development, and future success.
What Does LENA Start Do?
LENA Start provides parents and caregivers with practical tips and information about their child’s brain and language development through 10 weeks of classes and discussion. LENA Start also uses “talk pedometer” technology to measure how much parents and caregivers are talking with their children and how much their child responds. Over the 10 weeks, families can track their progress and see how their conversation has improved. Don’t worry – specific words are not recorded and no one can listen to the data!
LENA Start is free to Anchorage-area families. Participating families will receive free books to keep and can earn developmentally-appropriate baby and toddler toys and other prizes.What Families Are Saying About LENA Start
“LENA gave us the support we needed at the time we needed it.”
“Thank you so much for a great learning experience with the LENA program. We can already see how LENA has grown [our child]’s language skills and love of reading time.”
Get started today
Don’t wait – submit your interest form today! After you submit an interest form, a staff member will contact you within 3 business days to complete your registration. Device exchanges will happen through the Z. J. Loussac Library unless otherwise noted. Training is offered on the following days and times:
|02/09/2022 - 04/13/2022||Wednesdays at 6:30pm. Device exchange at Muldoon Library.|
|03/01/2022 - 05/03/2022||Tuesdays at 1:30pm|
|04/08/2022 - 06/10/2022||Fridays at 6:30pm|
|05/04/2022 - 07/06/2022||Wednesdays at 1:30pm|
|07/07/2022 - 09/08/2022||Thursdays at 6:30pm|