Six Skills Children Need Before They Can Learn to Read

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Reading is the gateway to success in school. Young children get ready to read long before they enter kindergarten. Experts have identified six important pre-reading or pre-literacy skills that children need to know before they learn to read.

kids skills before reading

Those six skills are: print motivation; print awareness; vocabulary; narrative skills; letter knowledge and phonological awareness. Parents have an important role to play in helping young children develop these skills.

Print Motivation

Print motivation is simply having fun with books. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to become good readers. Parents can:

  1. Get a library card and visit the library regularly with their children.
  2. Take books along wherever they go…the doctor’s office, the park, in the car.
  3. Involve your child in the reading…have your child repeat a phrase or tell you the story.
  4. Give your child a picture book with little or no text…have your child read it to you.
  5. Give books as gifts…you can check out the Friends of the Library section of your library or used book stores to obtain books at discounted prices. Most communities have local organizations that promote early literacy and may be able to provide books to families who cannot afford to buy them.
  6. Let your child help select the books.

Print Awareness

Print awareness consists of knowing how to handle a book and understanding how print is used. For example, in this country, we read left to right and top to bottom. Parents can:

  1. Let children help read recipes as you cook or bake…make a picture recipe with them so they can see the relationship between the word and the ingredient.
  2. Let children help you make a shopping list and match the words on the list to the products as you shop.
  3. Hand a book to your child upside down and see if he turns it around.
  4. Let your children see you reading and writing.
  5. Use puzzles that have pictures and letters or words.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is how a child understands and uses words. Even if you think your child doesn’t understand everything you say, the more words children hear, the larger their vocabulary becomes. Give your child a head start in the world of reading by providing rich language experiences. Parents can:

  1. Talk about the pictures in the book and ask your child to identify what he sees.
  2. Create labels for items in your home and attach them to the objects….chair, table, lamp, etc.
  3. Create labels for feelings, ideas and actions and talk about these. Make some flash cards with the word on one side and a picture of the feeling, idea or action on the other. Talk about these with your child and then play a game by showing the word and seeing if your child can do the action…clap, jump, run, etc. or express the feeling…anger, happiness, sadness, etc.
  4. Ask your child to describe illustrations in books.

Narrative Skills

Narrative skills are the ability to understand the sequence of events. Understanding that a story has a beginning and middle and an end is a critical skill in learning how to read. Parents can:

  1. Sort items like buttons or blocks by size, shape and color.
  2. Talk about what you will be doing for the day. Use a chalkboard or chart to write the daily schedule and include your child in the conversation as you plan the day.
  3. Draw pictures with your child and let her tell you what is happening in the picture and write what she says.
  4. Encourage your child to retell and reenact a story you’ve read.
  5. Make a necklace of beads or buttons using a particular sequence of colors and shapes and have your child recreate it.

helpful skills to teach kids to read

Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is identifying letters, numbers and shapes…so much more than just being able to sing the ABC song. Children who are to become readers must recognize that letters look different and that there are upper and lower case letters. They must realize that each letter has a name and that it represents certain sounds. Parents can:

  1. Point out shapes around the home, in the store and anywhere you go.
  2. Make a letter collage by cutting out letters from construction paper, wallpaper samples or fabric.
  3. Use clay and paint to explore how letters and shapes look in different mediums…but they are still the same letter with the same sound.
  4. Choose a letter each day and read a story and make a craft or prepare a recipe that starts with that letter. For example, read, THE LITTLE RED CABOOSE, bake a crumb cake or make clay.

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and respond to different sounds and to recognize that words are made up of a combination of different sounds and syllables. Parents can:

  1. Sing with your child.
  2. Make up silly rhymes and put together words that sound alike: Chair, chair, up in the air.
  3. Cut pictures out of magazines that start with the same letter and help the child make a collage.
  4. Play word games that change the first sound of the word or clap for each syllable of a word.