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What is 6 by 6?

Children get ready to read long before they start school. This is called early literacy and it means what children know about reading and writing before they can read and write. Researchers have identified 6 important pre-reading skills that children need to know before they learn to read – around the age of 6:

Questions about 6 by 6 at the Johnson County Library?

Please contact the Library's team of early literacy specialists to share feedback, questions or suggestions.

The Library's 6 by 6 program is funded in part through the generosity of the Johnson County Library Foundation and the Kansas Health Foundation.

These sources were consulted in preparing this information http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/ecrr/index.cfm
Ghoting, Saroj and Pamela Martin-Diaz. Early Literacy Storytimes @ Your Library. ALA, 2006.

A special thanks to the artist of the 6 by 6 images, children's author and illustrator, Brad Sneed.

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There are six skills children need to acquire before they can learn to read:

The Johnson County Library provides special kits, spaces, activities and programs designed to encourage these 6 skills.

Explore our 6 by 6 Web site and library spaces, and talk to your librarian to learn more.


About 0-2 years (approximate ages: each child is unique)

Although all 6 pre-literacy skills are being developed from birth to about age 6, Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Public Library Association divided early literacy development into these stages: Early talkers (birth- about 2 years) Talkers (About 2-3 years) Pre-Readers (About 4-5 years).

Early talkers are busy learning all about language by absorbing the different sounds they hear, and babbling and cooing in response. Johnson County Library offers a variety of board books that are sturdy and easy for your baby to handle, in addition to CDs with music for very young children.

For Early Talkers, Look for books with:

  • realistic pictures
  • bold, clear illustrations of things that are familiar to your baby
  • simple story lines and concepts
  • sound effects
  • songs and rhymes including Mother Goose
  • lift the flaps

Try board books by these authors:

  • Sandra Boynton
  • Margaret Miller
  • Eric Carle
  • Jan Ormerod
  • Tana Hoban
  • Helen Oxenbury
  • Karen Katz
  • Nancy Tafuri

Check out more great Staff Picks for Early Talkers

2-3 year olds (approximate ages: each child is unique)

Although all 6 pre-literacy skills are being developed from birth to about age 6, Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Public Library Association divided early literacy development into these stages: Early talkers (birth to about 2 years) Talkers (About 2-3 years) Pre-Readers (About 4-5 years).

Talkers have a large enough vocabulary to begin helping you tell stories. In fact, research has shown that children who are actively involved in the reading and storytelling process find it easier to learn to read. Now we know that how we read to children is as important as how often we read. In addition to the traditional read-aloud method, researchers and educators recommend dialogic reading where the adult helps the child tell the story. The adult becomes the questioner, listener and audience.

This type of book sharing encourages the use of open-ended questions like:

  • “What is happening?”
  • “How do you think they feel?”
  • “What do you think will happen next?”
  • “Where are they going?”
  • “What would you do?”
  • “What would happen if . . . ?”

Allow children plenty of time to think about your questions, formulate an answer and respond. Books with little or no text are perfect for this kind of early literacy interaction.

Repetition is also an important part of the learning process, so indulge your children when they want to hear the same story again and again.

Johnson County Library has an extensive collection of picture books just right for sharing. Two- and three-year-olds like books with colorful pictures, short text and filled with fun!

Check out our great Staff Picks for Talkers


4 & 5 year olds (approximate ages: each child is unique)

Although all 6 pre-literacy skills are being developed from birth to about age 6, Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Public Library Association divided early literacy development into these stages: Early talkers (birth to about 2 years) Talkers (About 2-3 years) Pre-Readers (About 4-5 years).

The spoken language is made up of individual and separate sounds, which when recognized are referred to as phonological awareness. It is important to help develop this skill in early readers so they are ready to read when they begin school.

Research has shown that children who play with rhymes and the sounds of words in their preschool years are better prepared to read when they get to school. In fact, if children in the early elementary school years are having trouble reading, it is likely that the difficulty lies with this skill.

Early readers like books that tell stories that they can memorize, help tell or even re-enact; scary stories and funny stories; and stories that encourage their developing imaginations. They like books that play with words and sounds.

Check out our great Staff Picks for Pre-Readers.


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