The Long Road to Literacy

Mother reading to baby on black backdrop
Category: Bookbug

Happy International Literacy Day!

Today is a chance to celebrate the difference that reading and writing can make to a person’s life. Literacy is a basic human right, and our ability to read and write impacts not only our ability to function in society, but also our creativity and how we’re able to express ourselves.

Literacy is a journey – not a destination. The process starts before birth and continues long after. Before a baby is born, they are listening to the sounds of the world around them. They’re starting to learn the rhythm of conversations and the sounds of language. Most importantly, they’re starting to connect with their families.

Connection is a vital base to literacy. Connecting with an adult helps us to feel safe and this experience allows our brains to expand and grow. It encourages babies to be curious and engage with the world. It starts to form the early basis of interpretation.

Babies are born looking to make emotional connections with others. They do this through touch, eye contact and participating in simple interactions. Through loving interaction and care, babies are developing a sense of safety and security. Our ability to progress on our journey to literacy starts with attachment, bonding and interaction. If we’re not in this state, then literacy and learning become even more challenging as the child can’t relax to engage with learning.

Reading to babies and children is key to starting the journey. The earlier we start, the further along the road we go. Developing a love of reading from our early book, song and rhyme experiences stays with us our entire lives and will continue to help us grow and travel.

 Developing a love of reading from our early book, song and rhyme experiences stays with us our entire lives

These early experiences aren’t about fast tracking the road to literacy and trying to get children reading independently from a young age. Instead, they’re about creating a family reading culture and giving children a sense of safety and creativity through books and stories. A love of reading is at the heart of literacy. 

Children’s literacy develops from meaningful and purposeful experiences. These experiences need to be provided by people the children trust: family members, nursery workers, teachers, librarians, the list goes on. Whilst literacy is influenced at home, there needs to be support and encouragement for literacy throughout whole communities. Each and every conversation, song, rhyme, story and game helps to advance children on their journey to literacy. Of course, this can also have a profound impact on advancing adults as well.

Although the journey starts before we’re born, it’s a path we’ll continue to travel our entire lives. Opportunities to chat, question, interpret, sing, rhyme and play are vital.

Although International Literacy Day is an annual celebration, take a few minutes every day and celebrate the journey to literacy.


Find out more about UNESCO's International Literacy Day.

Celebrate the journey to literacy with your favourite songs, rhymes and stories. We have a great selection of songs and rhymes on our website, and plenty of beautiful book recommendations for children aged 0-2 and 3-7.

Our favourites for International Literacy Day have to be books about book lovers and Scottish Books for Bookbug Readers.