Get Ready for Family Literacy Day on January 27th

Talk, Sing, Read to Your Child Every Day

By Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A., SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO January 19, 2023

Get Ready for Family Literacy Day: Talk, Sing, Read to Your Child Every Day.   

By Roxane Bélanger, M.O.A., SLP-C, Reg. CALSPO

Speech Language Pathologist, First Words Preschool Speech and Language Program of Ottawa and Renfrew County

Family Literacy Day takes place every January 27th to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. Since 1999, thousands of schools, libraries, literacy organizations and other community groups have taken part in the initiative. 

Taking time every day to talk and read with children of all ages is crucial to a child’s development, improving a child’s literacy skills dramatically, and can help a parent improve their skills as well.

Family Literacy Day 2023 Theme: Celebrate Your Heritage 

As stated on the ABC Life Literacy Canada, this year’s Family Literacy Day 2023 Theme is: Celebrate Your Heritage. To quote them: “Canada is a great diverse country full of different cultures. Take time to explore and learn about your heritage. Celebrate what you’ve found and share your culture with others. There’s no better way to learn about your family, than together as a family.”

To celebrate this day as a family, check out these resources and activities 

  • Family Literacy Day 2023 on the ABC website. Resources are available online. Download and use them in your family. Share these resources with friends and caregivers or a community program. Access these resources here:
  • Visit your Ottawa Public Library and EarlyOn center to know more about their Family Literacy Day programming on January 27th, 2023.
  • First Words has many resources about books and  a short webinar titled “Books, Language and Literacy” on our First Words website. This module provides tips to families who want to help their child grow their language and literacy skills and engage positively with books. 

Celebrate Family Literacy Day 2023 Virtually with Honorary Chair Barbara Reid!  

Barbara Reid is a picture book illustrator and author whose award-winning artwork is created using modelling clay. ABC Life Literacy Canada has made her their honorary chair for this year’s literacy day. Barbara Reid invites families to celebrate their heritage and learn about their family, together as a family! Barbara Reid will be doing a demonstration on how to use clay to create a picture. She will share unique techniques you can use to make different things. The event will end with a Q&A.  She has also developed a resource tip sheet available online here:

Talk And Read With Your Child in Your First Language

Research shows that talking and reading are crucial activities we can do with our children to develop listening, thinking, speaking, and later reading skills. 

Parents ask us often: What if we don’t have books written in our home language? No worries. Simply tell the story and read the book in your first language. Reading in your first language is one of the best activities that you can do with children of any age. 

In families with a first language other than French or English or who are using multiple first languages, talk about books and read books in your FIRST language. When you do, your children are developing strong language skills in their first language. 

Remember this:  you don’t need to read a book in the language that the book is written in. So go ahead, pick a book that your child likes and make up the story in your first language as you read it. Make it your own; describe the picture or read the story in your first language or in ALL the languages you speak at home. Over time, with the books that you own, you can write the story in your first language to expose your child to print in your first language. 

Our biggest wish for you and your child is the following: as soon as you are opening a book with your child, you are creating a special time for loving, learning and growing together. 

Promote Your Family Literacy: Know the Emergent Literacy Milestones 

As parents, you may have questions about the different milestones linked to literacy. 

Use the following milestones chart to track your child’s emergent literacy skills. You can start to pave the road to literacy early on, from birth, by talking and reading to your child every single day. This will help later skills linked for later reading and writing. 

“From as early as the first months through the second year of life, children’s experiences with oral language development and literacy begin to build a foundation for later reading success.”

(Burns, Griffin & Snow, 1999; Strickland & Morrow, 1988; Weaver, 1988)

Emergent Literacy Milestones
Source: Ontario Ministry of Children and YoutServices
1 year
  • Shows interest in simple picture books
1 ½ years
  • Enjoys being read to and looking at a simple book with you
  • Points to picture with one finger

2 years
  • Can hold a book the right way up
  • Can turn pages of a book
  • Pretends to read to dolls or toys
  • Can scribble with a crayon
2 ½ years
  • Recognizes signs and familiar logos (e.g., Stop signs)
  • Remembers and understands familiar stories
3 years
  • Begins to be interested in words that rhyme
  • Is aware of the function of print (e.g., signs, menus)
4 years
  • Can make simple rhymes (e.g., “cat - bat”)
  • Matches some letters with sounds (e.g., the letter “p” says “puh”)
5 years
  • Knows the letters of the alphabet
  • Identifies the beginning sounds of some words (e.g., “book” starts with “buh”)

Developing a love of books and reading is a love story that starts early and lasts a lifetime!

Learn more:
  • Visit the First Words website at
  • Follow us on Instagram at @firstwords_psl
  • If you are concerned about your child's communication development, complete our First Words Communication Checkup online screening tool. It is free, quick and easy to use. You can screen, get results and refer if needed in one single activity. 
  • Call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at (613) 580-6744. 

Recognizing speech and language problems early on is the best approach!

Check out our First Words Communication Checkup tool to know if your child is

meeting communication milestones. Refer online if necessary. For more information, visit or call Ottawa Public Health at (613) PARENTS.