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The Guide to Pre-Reading Skills in Early Childhood

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Preparing students to read doesn't start in kindergarten.  There are many skills needed for students to start on the reading path.  We can help our children gain some of these pre-reading skills starting as infants!  If our children have these pre-reading skills before reaching kindergarten, learning to read will be a successful experience!

Six Pre-Reading Skills

  1. Print Motivation

  2. Print Awareness

  3. Letter Knowledge

  4. Phonological Awareness

  5. Narrative Skills

  6. Vocabulary


    There is a free guide at the end of the blogpost that re-caps this blog post


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What is Print Motivation?

Simply, it is being interested in and enjoying books.

Print Motivation starts at a very early age.  Even the youngest of children can be read to by a caregiver.  Usually this reading time is a calm time for you and your child to cuddle around a book.  This creates a positive and warm feeling of reading time.

To help your child enjoy reading, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Read children's books to your child, holding the book up so that pictures can be seen.

-Show your child that you also read (whether it be a book, the paper or a magazine)

-When reading to a mobile child, do not force him/her to stay in one spot while reading.  Just take a break and continue reading once your child seems interested again.  Reading books needs to be enjoyable!

-Provide a basket of books (cloth, board and plastic books) at your child's level.  Expect that some books might get chewed on or torn.

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Read children's books to your child.  Point out pictures as you read.

-Allow your toddler to skip pages or focus on a favorite page in a book.  Since toddlers are very ego-centric, sometimes they may want to 'read' books in the ways that make sense to them.

-Don't try to force reading time onto a busy toddler.  If your toddler is too busy to sit down to hear a story, read aloud, using fun and engaging voices.  It is important for them to hear you read and they might even be drawn into the story and come on over!

-Have designated spots in the house for books that are appropriate for your toddler.  That way he/she always knows where to find books to read.  If you have older children, you may need to put thier paperback books up high and out of the hands of your toddler.

-Show your child that you also read (whether it be a book, the paper or a magazine)

-Keep the readings short and sweet.  Making reading a special time between you and your child.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-Read aloud often.  A switch from simple text books (such as board books) to paperback preschool stories may be needed.

-Fit reading into your schedule.  Whether it be before bed, upon waking or before rest-time.

-Re-read stories that your child enjoys- it is great for comprehension and building a love of reading.  Even if reading that book over and over doesn't sound so fun to you!

-Allow your child to keep his/her books in a special spot in his/her room.  Build upon your book collection!

-Show your child that you also read (whether it be a book, the paper or a magazine)

-Give books as gifts to your child, showing him/her the importance of books in your household.

For all ages- head to your local library!  There is nothing better than picking a book out from the  thousands of books sitting on shelves and taking it home to be read!


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What is Print Awareness?

Understanding that words on a page have meaning.

Print Awareness is when a child recognizes that the 'scribbles' and 'squigglies' on a paper have meaning and relate to the words we speak orally.

To help foster Print Awareness in your children, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Read books often, holding them in front of your child (while he/she is in your lap).  This way, you are able to model how to hold the book and how to turn the page.

-Talk about the use of books with young toddlers.  Do books go on our head?  Do we use a book to dry our hands?  No!  Books are for reading!

-Run your finger below the text you are reading in a simple board book, emphasizing the left to right, up and down progression that reading takes.

-Write your child's name on his/her drawings.  Run your finger under the letters as you say them.  This reinforces the idea that the word printed on the paper, also means their name.

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Read lots of books!  Model how to hold a book upright and turn the page.

-Use big books when reading aloud.  Run your finger under the words, helping your child learn that the printed word has a meaning.

-Play silly games to emphasize the use of books.  For example, hold the book upside down and see if your child notices.  Make a big silly fuss about it ~ 'It's upside down!  Thats not how we read a book!  Oops!'.

-Allow your child to see you reading and writing.  Talk about why you are reading and writing.

-Create a print-rich environment.  Meaning, create an environment that has printed words all around and point them out to your child.

-When out for a stroll, point out street signs and stop signs.  Explain that the letters on a stop sign tell cars to STOP!

-Place your child's name on a sticky note and stick to his/her door, chair and anything else they use.  Read it as you go by.

-Show your child different types of print.  Books, magazines, newspapers, digital print, labels, recipes, mail, instructions and ads.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-Write a morning message on a dry erase board.  Have your child help you read it.  Focus on modeling how to point at each word from a left to right and top to bottom progression.

-Write in front of your child.  Explain the reasons you are writing and what it says.

-Create an environmental print book.  These are usually the first books a child is able to read because they are reading familiar words from their environment.  

-Label everything in your child's environment.  This helps children connect a word to an object.

-Give your child some post-its and have them label things!  Try asking him/her to make seating arrangement cards for dinner.  It is okay if words are not spelled correctly or appear as scribbles and symbols.  It is just important that your child is connecting that words on paper have a meaning.

-Show your child different types of print.  Books, magazines, newspapers, digital print, labels, recipes, mail, instructions and ads.

-Encourage your child to read a favorite book from memory.

-Help your child write their name.  Label personal objects with your child's name.

-When out and about, take a moment to stop and read a sign, product box or a flyer.


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What is Letter Knowledge?

Understanding that each letter is different and that each letter has a name and a sound associated with it.

To help your children learn about letters, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Let babies play with different shapes (letters are just different shapes afterall!).

-Read books about shapes and alphabet letters.

-Talk to toddlers about things that are the same and different.  This can later translate to how letters are the same and different.

-Provide letter shapes for your child to play with (not too small, as to avoid choking hazards).

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Show your child his/her letter (the first letter of the first name).  Make this letter special by placing it on his/her door, chair, cup and other items that your child uses.

-Play with magnetic letters on the fridge, or foam letters in the bath.

-Read alphabet books.

-Point out letters in your environment, like the letters on a stop sign.

-Show your child two different letters and ask if they are the same.  Show letters that are the same and letters that are different.

-Write your child's name on his/her paper when doing painting or coloring.

-Use letter cookie cutters to play with playdough or letter stamps to make a letter collage.

-Sing the Alphabet Song often.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-Give your child access to lots of different alphabet books and hands on alphabet pieces (magnetic, foam, blocks, etc).

-Draw letters on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.  Have your child jump on the letters as you call out the names.

-Talk about the letters that begin family member's names.  For example, D is for Daddy and M is for Mommy.

-When talking about letters, make the sound that accompanies that letter.  Therefore, helping your child associate the shape of the letter with the sound.

-Examine alphabet letters.  Which look the same?  Letter O and Q?  Are there any letters that can be turned to look like another letter (b and d)?

-Make letters from playdough or draw letters in shaving cream.

-Look in books to find a favorite letter.

-Play 'I Spy' with different letters.  Can your child find the letter you call out?

-Is your child struggling with a specific letter?  Have a special letter day!  Focus on the troublesome letter all day long!  Where a shirt with the letter, cut the letter out of cheese for lunch and hunt for the letter all day long!


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What is Phonological Awareness?

Being able to break apart and manipulate the sounds of spoken language.

Phonological Awareness does not include written words, but focuses on manipulating sounds of oral or spoken language. Phonological Awareness an auditory skill.  

To help foster Phonological Awareness in your children, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Sing fun songs with your infants like Twinkle, Twinkle or Nursery Rhymes.

-Talk about the things in the environment around you and discuss the sounds that different objects make.

-Use different voice levels when talking and playing with your baby: whisper, low, high and loud

-Make up rhymes that include your child's name and recite the rhymes often.

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Play oral rhyming games when in the car.  Think of a word and find some rhymes, even if the rhyming words aren't real!

-Read lots of rhyming books.  Dr. Suess books are a great choice.

-Talk about words that start with the same sound.  Using your child's 'letter' (the first letter of their name), come up with words that start with that letter.  Emphasize the initial sound when speaking the words.

-Play listening games~  Ask your child, do these words sound the same?  House-House   Yellow-Yarn   Bat-Bat.  This helps toddlers listen with meaning and differentiate between words that are the same and different.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-Show pictures of animals with simple names, such as a cat or dog.  Show children how to break up the word into individual sounds, such as c/a/t.

-Encourage your child to rhyme, even with silly words.  Play the rhyming name game.

-Use family member's names.  See how many syllables each family member has in their name.  Show your child how to clap out the syllables they hear.

-While in the car, say a word in segmented chunks.  Such as, f/i/sh.  Ask your child to push the sounds back together and figure out what word you just segmented.

-Talk about the first sound in words.  Can your child think of other words that start with the same sound?

-Read lots of rhyming books.  Point out the rhyming words and how they sound the same at the end of the word.

-Make and sing silly rhyming songs.  For example: change rhyming words in  Hickory Dickory Dock to "Hickory Dickory knock, the mouse ran up the rock".  See how many silly versions you can come up with.

-Have a sound substitution day.  When you come in contact with an object, use the sound substitution of the day in the front of the word.  For example: If it is F day, you would brush your teeth with a foothbrush and ride in the far to the fark!


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What are Narrative Skills?

Narrative skills are expressive language skills like being able to describe things, tell stories, re-tell familiar stories and tell events in order.

To help your child enjoy reading, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Name everything around you to help your child learn new words.

-Narrate what you and your child is doing together. For example, ‘We are going to brush your teeth. First we get the toothbrush, then the toothpaste…etc’.

-Tell your child stories of family memories and family members.

-Read stories together often. Expand on words in the book. Example: ‘Look, it’s a bunny. It’s a gray bunny that loves to hop’.

-Share nursery rhymes together.

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Look at a picture together. Ask child you tell you what is happening in the picture.

-Play with puppets, create a storyline between the puppets.

-Read wordless books and encourage children to make up the story.

-Listen when children talk and tell stories. React with questions and praise.

-Read picture books with a simple plot and talk about the stories sequence.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-After reading, ask ‘What was your favorite part of the story?’.

-Encourage children to re-tell a story after reading it. Break down a simple story into beginning, middle and end.

-Ask children open-ended questions (questions that don’t have 'yes/no’ answers).

-Encourage children to tell their own stories by drawing pictures or making books.

-Read books with a repeating pattern or structure.


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What is Vocabulary?

Knowing the names and connecting them to the objects, concepts and feelings within the world.

Receptive Vocabulary: Understanding the meaning of the word being spoken and connecting it to an object, feeling or concept.

Expressive Vocabulary: Speaking a word and connecting it to an object, feeling or concept.

Vocabulary is important to reading because knowing and understanding the meaning of words translates into comprehending the text.  Just because a child can sound-out a word, does not mean that they know or understand the meaning and therefore the meaning of  reading is lost.

To help build Vocabulary in your children, here are some ideas for multiple age groups:

Infants & Young Toddlers

-Talk about objects in your environment.  Label the things that he/she touches- (example: that is your cup, drink from your cup)

-When reading simple board books, point to pictures and name them.

-Once your child is mobile, ask him/her to go and get a familiar object only by using it's name (no pointing).  This may show you what your child knows!

-Read lots of different stories, as each book has different vocabulary words in them.

-Make different faces to show different emotions and label them.

-Make a photo book of family members and name each person.

-Name animals and make thier animal sound.

-Name body parts by making it a fun game in the bath.

-Talk, talk, talk to your baby!  This helps build up vocabulary and an understanding of the world around them.  Later, when words come they will have a lots of words they already understand and will be able to speak them more easily!

Toddlers (2 & 3 year olds)

-Read children’s books to your child.  Point out pictures as you read and name them.  If the book is familiar, ask your child to name the picture you point to.

-Narrate everything in your life.  If your toddler is in the room as you are baking a cake, explain all the steps to him/her.  Don't assume that he or she will be bored or is too young to understand.  This is how children learn!

-As your child begins to understand a certain word, teach them a synomyn of that word.  For example: your child knows the word big- now start using large, huge, tall, ect.

-Read lots of different books to gain access to different words.  For example, at our house, we may never come in contact with a Stingray.  But, through a book children can learn to associate a word with the picture in the book.

-Name family members and friends- talk about whether they are boys or girls.

-Show children non-fiction books as well. The text may not be appropriate for the age, but helping children see real life pictures of animals and objects helps them see that a mouse in real life doesn't necessarily look like Mickey.

Pre-Readers (4 & 5 year olds)

-Read aloud often.  A switch from simple text books (such as board books) to paperback preschool stories may be needed.

-When reading, stop and explain any words that your child may not know the meaning of.

-Use 'rare' words to help build vocabulary through everyday conversations.

-Encourage your child to ask about a word when he/she doesn't understand what the word means.

-When your child tells you a story or talks about the day, expand on their thoughts and add descriptive words.

-Add non-fiction books to your home library in subjects that interest your child.

-Create a time during circle time to focus on new words- we have a monthly words chart and we name the pictures.

 Would it be helpful to have all this info in a guide book?

I thought so too!  You can grab the Reading Readiness Guide in the Lovely Commotion Teachers Pay Teachers Store.


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