Des Moines Public Library Initiative Helps Promote Early Literacy Skills

Learning to read begins long before a child starts school. Early literacy development begins in infancy and is the foundation for everything children do early in their reading journey. Parents and guardians can provide starting points by introducing children to books, playing music, or even just talking to them.

The Des Moines Public Library’s Simple Steps to Success initiative helps families realize that they can promote early literacy anywhere, anytime. Whether you’re traveling, folding laundry, or running groceries, there are simple things every parent or caregiver can do to hone those skills.

Maddie Bassman, DMPL Outreach Librarian, who has worked with children to promote early literacy at the library for years, offered some tips for each of the five simple steps.

Maddie Bassman

Read: “Reading with your toddler is one of the best things you can do to help him succeed in school. Listening to new books helps them learn new words, develop empathy and discover the world around them. Find books you love together, take time each day to share stories, and visit the library.

Write: “Even the youngest children can practice ‘writing’ by developing the muscles in their hands and fingers. Scrub paper, play with Play-Doh and let your child create scribbles, doodles and scratches. As children grow, these exercises strengthen their fine motor skills and help them write letters and words.

To sing: “When you sing, it helps children – even little babies – hear the different parts of the word. This will help them later as they pronounce words and learn to read. Drum on a table to say words, sing some of your favorite songs with your kids, and even try an icy dance song to make singing a game.”

Player: “When a child plays, he uses his hands to explore the world. It gives them concrete, real-life examples that make strong connections to the words in their brains. Host a dance party, build a tower with blocks or pillows, and put on a puppet show with socks or stuffed animals!

Speak: “Conversation and the back and forth of regular conversation is such an important part of early literacy. This is how babies and children learn words and learn to communicate. You can ask your child about the weather every day and tell them who grew up with your favorite book and movie characters.

Go to every Monday to learn more about each stage, and check out our events page ( to learn about the special early childhood literacy programs taking place at each branch over the next month.

NOTE ON THE PROGRAM: Some Des Moines Public Library programs have been postponed or canceled. Please visit before attending your scheduled event.

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