The Six “Pre-Reading” Skills
Children’s early experiences with books and language will predict their success with learning how to read in school. It can also foster a love of reading that will last a lifetime!
According to research, there are six pre-reading skills that children must learn in order to learn to read. Developing “pre-reading” skills in your child does NOT mean that you are teaching your child how to read. You can do some very simple and fun activities every day that will encourage your child’s language skills and develop a reader.
1. Alphabet Knowledge
Know letter names and sounds.
- Sing the alphabet song to your baby. With toddlers, point to the letters of the alphabet as you sing.
- Read alphabet books.
- Get a magnetic alphabet for your refrigerator or some alphabet puzzles.
- Point out letters in books and on signs.
- Write your child’s name and talk about the letters.
- Show your child upper and lower case letters. When he or she is old enough, encourage your child to write his or her name using upper and lower case letters.
2. Print Awareness
Know how to handle a book, and recognize that words tell a story.
- Let your child hold the book and turn the pages. It’s okay if young children don’t want to listen to all of the words.
- For toddlers and preschoolers, pretend to start the story from the back or upside down and see if they correct you.
- Point to the words on the page as you read. This lets the child learn that the print has meaning and is what tells the story.
3. Print Motivation
Enjoy looking at books.
- Develop a reading routine (bedtime for example). Snuggle and laugh as you read together.
- Take your child to the library and let him or her choose a book to borrow. Board books are a good choice for infants and toddlers.
Know the names of things and use lots of different words.
- Talk and sing everywhere you go. Listen and respond, even if you merely repeat what your child has said. Even if you have a babbling infant, respond to the sounds he or she makes.
- Read aloud often. Books are a great source of new words.
- Play the game “I Spy” to identify objects.
- Use new words during your daily routine. For example, in addition to “good job,” say “outstanding” or “fantastic!”
- Model good language. For example, if your toddler says, “More juice,” you can say, “May I have some more juice, please?”
- Add to what your child says to you. If he or she says, “fire truck,” you may add, “Yes, that is a red fire truck.”
5. Phonological Awareness
Be able to hear and play with the smaller sounds in words.
- Read books and nursery rhymes and sing songs.
- Emphasize the rhyming words in nursery rhymes, rhyming books and songs. Encourage toddlers and preschoolers to finish the rhymes.
- Play rhyming games. Ask whether two words rhyme. (Does cat rhyme with hat? Does cat rhyme with dog?) Or simply list as many rhymes as you can. (For example, what rhymes with ball?)
- Point out words that start with the same sound (mom, mouse, moo). Emphasize the beginning sound.
- Use clapping games to help your child hear the number of syllables in words.
6. Narrative Skills
Be able to describe events and retell a story.
- Read predictable stories with lots of repetition (for example: The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle). Older children may be able to finish the refrain or guess what happens next.
- Talk to babies. Explain what you are doing during the day. ("I'm getting a spoon so that I can feed you dinner.")
- Ask toddlers and preschoolers questions that need more than a “yes” or “no” answer. (“What is the boy doing?” or “Tell me about the picnic.”)
- Read a simple, familiar story and ask your toddler or preschooler to retell it to you, perhaps using puppets or toys.
- Connect questions to child’s own experiences. (“When have you felt scared like Goldilocks?”)