Play and Learn with Counting Books

Picture books offer many opportunities for young children to practice counting, a key early math skill. They are also really fun to read!

To inspire and support families to engage in math learning together, the nonprofit Tandem, Partners in Early Learning collaborated with DREME to produce the video, Stories That Count. The video shows families enjoying counting books together and offers ideas for promoting early math skills.

For example, in the video, Savitha and her son Avi read together and identify numerals, point and count things, and talk about the illustrations that Avi likes. Another parent, Dulce, and her son Tonio count on their fingers, talk about how many things in all, and make funny animal noises while they read!

Both examples show how parents can turn storytime into a playful math learning experience. The math that Avi and Tonio are working on—recognizing numerals, counting objects one-by-one, and labeling the total number of things in a set—are important skills that will prepare them for school and later math learning.

Read and Build Counting Skills

Any book with illustrations or numbers in it can be a counting book. Reading both written numbers (e.g., 1, 2, 3) and number words (e.g., one, two, three) develops children’s counting skills.

Families can use reading time to help children practice recognizing numbers and finding the answer to, “How many?” Follow your child’s lead by choosing book topics they’re especially interested in, making funny sound effects as you read, and lingering on pages they like.

You can support counting skills by:

  • Pointing and counting things in pictures.
  • Tracing numerals and saying the number aloud.
  • Counting on your fingers.
  • Circling groups with your fingers to show how many there are all together.

The video includes suggestions of picture books that support counting skills. DREME offers storybook guides, including many in Spanish, to help parents and caregivers talk about math with their children while reading together.

Resource Authors

Sara Schnitzer and Eric Dearing