Teaching Preschoolers to Read – 5 Steps to Literacy

Some children begin school reading, while others seem to have no idea what a book is or how to recognize letters of the alphabet. While Kindergarten is a great opportunity for young children to develop their reading skills, it is difficult for even the best teachers to give the children the kind of one-on-one time that parents can. Also, by the time children reach Kindergarten, their attitudes to reading are already ingrained. For children to grow up loving reading, books need to be a part of their lives almost from the day they are born. It is never too early to begin “teaching” children to read. This isn’t about “hot housing,” formal lessons, or gimmicky videos. The key to raising book lovers is making books a part of children’s lives. In other words, read! Read to your children from the day they are born, read yourself, point out words, talk to your children clearly, enunciating your syllables, take delight in language and in the pleasures of the written word, and the chances are that your children will naturally want to learn. The following five points are for parents whose children are around 4-5 years old and who want to prepare their children for reading at big school.

1. Read. Your child is never too old to be read to. Cuddle up, put on your corniest acting voice, and have fun together. And let your child see you reading for fun. Read signs, magazines, the back of cereal boxes, the TV guide, and of course, read good books.

2. Know your child. Children learn in different ways. Some children learn to read instinctively through whole word recognition. These children just slide from memorising and reciting the text to making the connection between the words they say and the words on the page. For a child like this, let them pretend to read as much as possible. Let them fill in missing words for you, “read” to parents and grandparents, and always have lots of books around. For most other children, you will probably need to do some phonics (teaching the sounds of words). There are many phonic resources on the market, but the best one I’ve found is a free website: http://www.starfall.com. It begins with letter sounds and builds up slowly with games, varied activities and printouts. You can do as much or as little as you and your child want, but since it is interactive, colorful and presented as play, you may find that even reluctant readers will be keen.

3. Play. Word recognition games like “I Spy” using letters, finding road signs, letter memory, word and letter puzzles and even junior scrabble are all great ways of teaching , as are posters you can point to, friezes, and other bright resources.

4. Write. Writing helps children understand how letters build to words, words build to sentences and sentences to ideas and books. Write little notes to your children and then help them read them (I like to put notes in my children’s lunch boxes — keep them simple, with smiley faces or love hearts). Help children write a book by stapling pages together. Cut out and paste pictures onto a sheet of paper and then write about them. Have your children write a simple letter to a favourite relative and post it. There are lots of ways to play with writing.

5. Keep up the work. The year before starting school is the perfect time to begin teaching your child to read and if you have a short reading activity of the kind listed above every day, the chances are very good that they will start school with, at the very least, a readiness to begin reading. This is a wonderful head start to literacy, a love of reading, and a positive school experience.

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