Preparing your preschooler to read

You are your child's first - and most influential - teacher. Learn how giving your preschooler daily opportunities to practice emerging reading skills will help her thrive!

By Barbara Graber, M.A.

As your child's first and most influential teacher, you've taught your 3-5 year old a lot about reading and writing. By providing opportunities each day for your child to practice emerging skills, you're laying the foundation for her to become a successful reader. She's learning that print is a powerful means of communicating knowledge and information and can be lots of fun, too.

Making Literacy a Part of Every Day

Kids learn best through direct experiences that let them safely experiment and explore their world. Offer your child choices and let her be the leader in deciding which activities she wants to do. Each child learns and develops language skills in her own unique time frame, but all young children need the following:

Developing Vocabulary and Language

Since oral language skills precede reading and writing, give your child daily opportunities to talk about what she's thinking and learning. As tiring as it may feel, try to answer her questions and talk about her concerns. Remember that a rich vocabulary and strong language skills are predictors of success in learning to read.

Here are some oral language activities you can do together:

Preparing to Read

Learning to read and write is based on an awareness of the printed word. Your child will learn that the spoken word (speech) can be broken down into small individual units of sound (phonemes). These sound patterns are represented by a set of symbols (letters of the alphabet). Finally, combinations of letters can be blended together to form a word (phonics).

Here are some activities to help your child get ready to read:

Communicating on Paper

Children progress from scribbling and drawing, to trying to form letters, to finally writing real letters and words. When your child asks you to "read" her scribbles, you know she's aware that speech is represented by symbols (letters of the alphabet). Writing and drawing activities also help her develop fine motor control, as well as imagination and creativity.

Here are some tips for expressing ideas on paper:

Using the Internet

There are many other suggestions to help you as a parent build on your child's current skills. Remember the Internet is a source of free games and informal activities to help your preschooler develop emerging reading skills.