Literacy in the early years

The term "literacy" is used by some to simply describe reading and writing, but in fact literacy covers a much wider range of learning.

Literacy in the early years includes talking about books, print in the environment, early mark making and writing, as well as sharing books and reading. The statutory frameworks in England and Wales emphasise the fundamental importance of literacy and sharing books, and this page will be your helping hand to achieve that.

Literacy in your childcare setting

“From the day our children are born (yes), to the day they tell us to stop, we should read to them,” says Michael Rosen (pg.39 Good Ideas How to Be Your Child’s and Your Own Best Teacher).

Introducing literacy into your childcare setting doesn’t have to be confined to the printed ink on a page.

Chatting away in funny voices as you flick through picture books, enjoying interactive eBooks together, listening to stories being told via video or audio and singing nursery rhymes can all spark communication and literacy learning. Essentially it is these ideas and questions the activities promote that create the foundation for developing reading and writing skills.

“A shared story between a child and a familiar, loved adult has a huge impact on children’s interest and motivation for reading later on,” says PACEY President, Penny Tassoni.

National Storytelling week

Once upon a time (15 years ago to be exact) the Society for Storytelling’s National Storytelling Week was launched. Of course the art of telling a tale, spinning a yarn and using narrative skills goes back way before that.

National Storytelling week takes place each year and is a fabulous way to celebrate literacy in your childcare setting. Events take place in storytelling clubs, school, theatres, hospitals and theatres around the country. To find out what’s going on in your area take at look at the National Storytelling events website.

We’ve rounded up a bunch of the best literacy tools around for childcare professionals. You’ll find fun and educational children’s books and a selection of favourites from Clickety Books and I CAN.

Discover a range of resources including practice guides about sharing books, videos about communication and partner activity sheets from the BookTrust and ICAN’s Chatterbox Challenge amongst others.

Read along with Michael Rosen’s video of ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’, check out our guest blog about early speech and phonics plus activity ideas from the PACEY Local forum.

Free literacy resources for members

Here are a variety of materials, available free for members, including practice guides and factsheets, all of which support literacy learning and development.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Early Years Resource Pack - written by PACEY in conjunction with Puffin Books, this downloadable resource will inspire activities linked to the early learning outcomes in England and Wales, based on the much-loved book.

Literacy practice guide - a brilliant guide to help you think about supporting the development of literacy skills in children.

Supporting children’s language development – A guide to help you support and understand children’s language development for under and over 3s, and causes of communication difficulty.

Sharing books – A guide to help you think about sharing books with children, looking at why sharing books is important, creating a book friendly setting, sharing books from birth, encouraging book sharing at home and what children learn from book sharing.

Supporting children and families with English as an additional language (EAL) – A factsheet exploring how to support children and families with English as an additional language.

Chatterbox Challenge factsheets and resources – A selection of five fun factsheets from I CAN’s Chatterbox Challenge.

  • Having an indoor adventure
  • Stepping stones to reading
  • Importance of communication development
  • Communication on the move
  • Using songs to support children’s speech and language development

Routines – A factsheet that explores the benefits of routines in children’s learning and development. Children can learn literacy skills from routines from learning vocabulary associated with time to reading about routines in books and through stories and rhyme.

Transitions – A guide that explores the different types of transitions that children go through, as well as how you can help children settle in well to your childcare setting.

Partnership with parents – a factsheet giving you information about working in partnership with parents, encouraging parents and carers to become more involved with their child’s learning of literacy.

Blog: How a floppy-hatted scarecrow, a spider and a magic box can be your top tools for early literacy - Amanda Baxter from I CAN tells us her interesting top tips for early literacy and language development.

Literacy products from PACEY

Literacy in the early years book

Literacy in the early years is a colourful guide to help childcare professionals to support children’s literacy in the early years looking at:

  • Why literacy is important in early childhood
  • Tips on how to engage young children in reading
  • Exploring the importance of language, communication and early mark-making
  • Helpful resources including a list of ‘firm favourite’ books that are perfect for childcare settings.

Storybooks collections

story books collection 4We're now selling a selection of children's story books in the PACEY shop! Get your favourites in four different collections:

Story books collection 1: Owl Babies,Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little toes, Handa's surprise, Where's My Teddy

Story books collection 2: We're Going on a Bear Hunt, I Want My Hat Back, Gorilla

Story books collection 3: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Elephant and the Bad Baby, Where's Spot?

Story books collection 4: Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy, The Snowman, Meg and Mog, Princess Smartypants

Clickety books

clickety booksClickety Books produce engaging resources for building speech, language and literacy skills, or simply having fun! Check out our range of Early Years books including their Early Soundplay series supporting the prime area of communication and language in the EYFS.

  • Early Soundplay books
  • Early Soundplay books plus puppets
  • Early Soundplay books plus puppets and bag
  • Sound Steps to Literacy books and CDs collections


i can early talkersI CAN is the children’s communication charity. They are experts in helping children develop the speech, language and communication skills they need to thrive in a 21st century world. We stock a range of books and resources from I CAN starting at under £7 for members.

  • Learning to talk, talking to learn
  • Chatter Matters
  • Early Talkers
  • Babbling Babies
  • Toddler Talk
  • Chatting with Children
  • Working with under 5’s: Understanding Communication and Development

Storytelling and literacy videos

PACEY's videos for members

Communication – A practice video all about supporting children with their speech, language and communication development. Discover how different childcare settings use sign language and support children who speak languages other than English.

Telling stories video – A practice video that explores how to engage children in stories and the learning and development benefits they bring.

Storytelling videos

Author Michael Rosen performs the children’s classic - We’re going on a bear hunt:

Clickety Books storytelling- the YouTube channel from our friends at Clickety Books have a fantastic variety of clips from story books including Jake the Achy Snake, Tracy the Pacy Plaice and Corky the Squawky Hawk voiced by Rik Mayall and Ronni Ancona.

BookTrust - Book Start - I love stories and rhymes! - A short top tips video with the blue bears from Bookstart.

Free training for members

Supporting Children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs – An online course that’s free for members covering how children acquire language and exploring why some children have speech, language and communication needs.

Free partner resources

walker booksWalker Books activities to download:

Picture Book Party activities to download:

BookTrust - Bookstart activities to download:

We hope this page has been useful for developing the literacy learning in your childcare setting.  We'll leave you with this quote from Michael Rosen that sums up the importance of literacy and empowering children with words:

“The feeling of entitlement about words is one of the most important platforms we can give children – whether that’s for getting what they need from education of beyond.”(pg.55)

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