Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Laila Weir

Calling all pregnant moms and parents-to-be! Literacy impacts everything from academic success to income to a person’s chances of avoiding incarceration. But did you know that most American children are falling short of where they should be in reading? And being behind in elementary school predicts long-term struggles.

To help your child achieve the reading success they need to pursue their full potential and create the life they deserve, you can build their language skills from the very beginning. How parents interact with their infants can have a profound effect on literacy, so don’t wait until they’re six months or a year old, or talking, or heading off to school to get started. In fact, the best time to start preparing their path to reading and writing is now—before they’re even here. 

We realize the imminent arrival of your baby may be occupying most of your attention right now! But we invite you to dedicate a few moments to thinking about your longer-term plans. Once babies arrive they have a way of taking up your spare time: Before you know it, the months go by and your intentions may go out the window. A little preparation now can keep you on track during those fabulous but flying-by-the-seat-of-your-bathrobe days after Baby’s arrival.

Read through the tips below to hit the ground running when your little reader-to-be shows up.

Learn about the Benefits of Reading to Babies and the Smart Way to Read Aloud

Check out our series on how to maximize the benefits of reading aloud to your kids. They’re quick and easy reads with actionable tips, so don’t hesitate to dive right in. You’ll learn about the science behind literacy development and the little ways you can give your kids the best start possible. (Hint: Not all reading aloud is created equal.)

Get Some Basic Literacy Supplies on Hand

We know, we know: Diapers and baby clothes may be topping your list of what to stock up on, and we won’t argue with that. But this is also a good time to start thinking about what else you want to have for your little one.

This does not mean you need to go buy out the whole bookstore or educational supply store. In fact, you can get your baby off to a great start with just a few dollars and a library card! But having a few well-chosen literacy-supporting supplies around will make a big difference in raising your reader—just like having blocks available can pay dividends beyond keeping little hands busy (kids who play with blocks build spatial awareness that helps their math skills later).

Obviously, the key literacy supply to have on hand is—you guessed it—books. And we’ve got a post that will help you choose the absolute best baby books for building literacy from the get-go. Your local library should have plenty of options, and thrift stores also often carry baby books.

But, just like supporting literacy doesn’t start and end with reciting picture books verbatim (as you’ll know from the articles linked above), literacy supplies don’t start and end with a healthy bookshelf. Like just about anything else with young children, teaching early literacy skills should be a hands-on endeavor. 

So check out our post on the best, easiest, most affordable literacy-supporting items for helping little ones learn letters and progress towards reading. Your infant will be a toddler before you know it, and preparing now to help them master their ABCs will ensure you’re ready when that day comes.

Follow Bookstagram Accounts that Recommend Great Children’s Books

Do you catch yourself scrolling mindlessly on social media? We get it. Here’s the good news: You can turn your scrolling into a literacy-building activity for your reader-to-be! In a happy, literary corner of the internet, #bookstagram accounts on Instagram offer an easy way to find reading recommendations and discover new authors. 

Take time now to follow accounts that recommend positive books to help you build the family reading life you want. Then you can mindlessly scroll with a purpose during tired snuggles with your baby later on. Our post about bookstagrammers who share kids’ books and tips on building an inclusive children’s library will get you started. Soon your wish list will be chock-full of awesome reads for Baby—and maybe a few for you, too!

Let us know how else you’re getting ready to raise a reader in the comments.