Before learning to Read…
Learning to read is a complex task. It is actually very different from learning to speak. Learning to read doesn’t happen naturally, as speaking does. And it doesn’t happen all at once. There is a constant progression in the development of reading ability over time.
But before learning to read your child should develop some basic pre-reading skills. What are those pre-reading skills that your child needs to have? Well, you will find out on this article.
Also, we will give you actionable tips and resources to help your child develop these pre-reading skills.
Don’t get started with all of this just when your kid is about to enter school.
You can work on these pre-reading skills from a very early age. This will be very beneficial for your child’s development and will give him/her a distinct head start!
So, without further ado… Let’s get started with the 6 KEY early literacy skills!
1: Print Motivation
Get your child interested in books and stories by reading to him or her on a daily basis. Children love being read to. Make it a daily habit and make it an enjoyable experience for you and your child. It is actually never too soon to start reading to your child. Read books from a very early age. You can start even when she/he is a newborn!
Take your child to library trips, make the reading experience special, and get your baby to see you reading too! Even if it is only a magazine or a newspaper, being in an environment that promotes reading is key for introducing a love for reading in children.
Some ideas to make the experience of reading even more enjoyable are:
- Use different voices for the different characters in the stories you are reading.
- Do not use a monotonous voice. Lots of ups and downs in your voice will make your child more interested and engaged!
- You can make a puppet show around the story that you are reading using fluffy toys.
- Children love rhymes! And it really helps them develop their speech too. You can use nursery rhymes books for this. They are really an excellent tool! You can download our free nursery rhymes ebook here.
- Read in a place that is comfortable for you and your child.
2: Print Awareness
First of all, your child must be able to tell that letters are letters, that they mix together to form words and that those words form sentences that have actual meaning.
This concept is called Print Awareness.
Children with Print Awareness also know how text is organized and that we read left to right and top to bottom.
How to encourage print awareness?
As we said, your goal is for your child to be able to hold a book correctly, to understand that books are read left to right and top to bottom, and that print of books can be decoded into words and sentences, that have actual meaning.
So when you’re reading to your child:
- Use your index finger to point to the words that you are reading.
- It is useful to read books with easy-to-read large print.
- If your child is playing with books and he or she is holding them upside down, correct the position.
- You can also make signs for the doors in the house. For example: Marie’s room or Toys’ room.
- Game idea: Place a book upside down and get a puppet. The puppet wants to read the book but, as it is upside down, he can’t read it! The puppet asks your child for help to correct the book’s position! The puppet keeps asking for help to keep reading the book: Where do I start reading? How do I turn the page?
3: Letter Recognition
Your child should recognize at least some letters of the alphabet. This pre-reading a skill is Letter Recognition.
We would go a step further and say that ideally your child should also know the sounds those letters make. Say “A” is for apple and makes the “ah” sound, “B” is for “bus” and makes the “bah” sound, and so on and so forth.
This is very important. Don’t focus only on the letter names, teach your child the sounds at the same time. Unfortunately, it is a common mistake that parents, and even educators make.
Why is Letter Recognition important?
The foundation of all other literacy learning builds upon this knowledge. Children without this knowledge are more likely to struggle with learning to read.
When you are teaching letters to your child, don’t rush into teaching him or her all of them at the same time! It simply won’t work.
Go slowly, introduce a couple of letters per week, and go over them again and again, before you move to the next set of letters.
Start with the capital letter for the letter you are introducing, then teach him / her the lowercase equivalent. And, only then, move on to the next letter.
In order for toddlers to learn, they need to be interested!
A few ideas and strategies:
- Keep it meaningful. Focus on the letters on your child’s name.
- Make letters out of playdoh.
- Use letter coloring books and worksheets. Buy them, create your own or simply use our free downloable Alphabet Worksheets.
- Use connect the dots activities
- Songs are a fantastic tool. Focus on songs that teach letter names and letter sounds at the same time!
- Use alphabet charts and help your child to copy the letters on a paper.
4: Phonemic Awareness
This pre-reading skill is key skill when learning to read. In short, Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds (called the phonemes).
Phonemes are the smallest units of sound. For example, the word cat is formed by the individual sounds /k/ /a/ /t/
It is crucial that you encourage phonemic awareness at home from an early age by playing with the sounds. Our favorite strategy for Phonemic Awareness is mixing word segmenting and oral blending when reading bedtime stories.
It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Say you’re reading a nursery rhyme instead of reading straight through the rhyme, simply make an effort to separate the first letter sounds from the words.
Instead of reading:
“Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pale of water…”
“J-ack and J-ill went up the h-ill
To f-etch a p-ale of water”
You are separating the first phoneme of the words: Jack, Jill, fetch and pale.
Obviously, don’t overdo it!
Just pick a few words and do it randomly. Otherwise, it can get boring for your child. And you do not want to turn reading into a negative or boring event for your child!
Another strategy that you can use is to simply take words from your everyday speaking to your child and include oral blending sounds into your sentences.
For example, if you wanted to ask your child to drink his milk you could say: “Sam, d-r-i-n-k your m-i-l-k”. As you can see, the words drink and milk are sounded out slowly and distinctly!
You could also pick different words and play blending sounds games with your child. Some sample words which you can use are:
As you may have noticed, the first word of the examples is more segmented than the second word and will be more difficult to sound out.
It is very important to remember that with this technique you are not teaching or written the names of the letters to them. You are focusing on the letter sounds instead.
This type of ear training for phonics and phonemic awareness should continue throughout the teaching process, even well after your time has grasped this concept. It can be applied to words with increasing difficulty.
Please always keep in mind that not all children can easily blend the sounds they hear on a word from day one, so you must be patient. Continue this for days weeks or even months if needed. Consistency and frequency is the key to success here!
We can’t stress enough how important Phonemic Awareness is. Children’s ability to recognize and manipulate phonemes strongly correlates with their future reading success!
Studies show that Phonemic Awareness is the best predictor
of reading success for young children once they start school. And, in fact, studies have found that Phonemic Awareness is far better than IQ
at predicting the reading and spelling abilities of young children!
According to the National Reading Panel, “teaching children to manipulate phonemes in words was highly effective under a variety of teaching conditions with a variety of learners across a range of grade and age levels and that teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly improves their reading more than instruction that lacks any attention to Phonemic Awareness.”  This is a statement made by the National Reading Panel (NRP) in their report titled “TEACHING CHILDREN TO READ: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction.”
Your goal here is for your child to learn the names of things. Research clearly shows that children with larger vocabularies are better readers.
Reading daily to your child is again an excellent way to help with this pre-reading skill. When you are reading, talk about the pictures of the book you are reading and point to them.
A few tips to develop your child’s vocabulary are:
- Be a chatterbox, and talk to him/her about everything that is going on around you.
- Engage in conversations with your child. When she/he speaks to you, listen with care and answer back.
- A fun game that you can do with your child is getting pictures and get him/her to describe what s/he sees. Ask her about the picture. Make up a crazy story about what could be going on!
- Songs are another fun and fantastic way to increase your child’s vocabulary.
Apart from having a large vocabulary, you want your child to be able to tell stories, describe things and events.
Some of the tips that we have given you to expand their vocabulary will also help with his/her narrative skills.
A few extra things that you can do:
- Ask your child about the most special thing that they’ve done in the day, about the friends they’ve played with, about the foods they’ve eaten, etc., etc. Do this daily. You want to engage into conversations with them. Let them elaborate.
- During and after reading a book, talk about the story. Take the time to discuss ideas in the book in order to ensure proper understanding and inspire imagination.
- If they have a favorite book or author, let them read their work again and again, but also encourage them to explore other authors and books in a similar style.
Useful Resources (FREE)
- Download Free nursery rhymes eBook
- Download Free activity worksheets based on phonics
- Download Free Alphabet Identification worksheets
I hope that this gives you huge motivation and ideas on the fantastic journey of supporting your child when learning to read.