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Teaching Preschoolers to Read

Reading skills are best taught, by reading. Children need to learn to read the same way they learn to talk by being emersed in it – by making it fun and enjoyable and part of everyday life. Reading books, signs, recipes, magazines, and cereal boxes. Reading about anything they are interested in.

So often when a parent or teacher wants to start teaching a child to read they look for a program, worksheets or some kind of drill work. These can have their place if they’re fun and engaging, and your child enjoys them. However, they should only supplement your actual story times. Actual reading to your child should be the biggest part of your “reading program.”

Mom and Dad reading to their young daughter.

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Teaching Preschoolers to Read

During storytime, there is an immense amount of learning taking place between the covers of books. As you snuggle up with your little one and read aloud to them they are building knowledge and a rich vocabulary. They learn that written words have meaning. With simple guidance, they can pick up that stories are read top to bottom, front to back, and left to right. And that books have titles, authors and illustrators. Many even find that they have a favorite author.

Pre-Reading Skills

As your preschooler is enjoying good books there are many ways you can encourage pre-reading skills. Guide them in learning how to:

  • turn pages
  • identify the front and back of the book
  • make predictions about what will happen in the story
  • identify the main characters of the stories
  • recall the series of events that took place
  • retell the story
  • point out the title on the front cover
  • predict what a new story will be about by the cover

A young girl excited as ahe's looking at a book with her mom.

  • Encourage your child to chime in at familiar text
    • Books with repeating phrases and rhyming text are a big hit with preschoolers.
  • Encourage your preschooler to “write” and/ or illustrate their own books, newspaper or other writing projects. This is a process. At first, a preschooler’s writing will probably not be actual words or even letters but eventually, they will learn to write their name and then they can add a few simple words like “a” or “the” or their name into stories they dictate to you.

A boy sitting in a chair reaidn a book.

Sentences and Punctuation

Older preschoolers can begin learning the basics about sentences and simple punctuation while enjoying read-alouds. Here’s a few things you can incorporate into your storytime.

  • Point out that sentences begin with a capital letter.
  • Show your child what an exclamation point looks like. Discuss how a word or sentence is read when you see these marks. Exclamatory words (interjections )are naturally FUN to preschoolers!
  • Likewise, show what a question mark looks like in a story and discuss how a sentence is read when you see this punctuation.
  • Try this punctuation game:
    • write an exclamation mark, a question mark, and a period each on a card and then play a game with your child by saying a sentence, asking a question, or making an exclamation and let them hold up the appropriate card.
    • Switch roles and let them pose sentences to you and you hold up the appropriate card.

A boy holding a question mark card over his head.

A sure-fire way to build strong reading skills in preschoolers is by instilling a love of reading from the very beginning. If books are an enjoyable, fun part of your child’s everyday routine in these early years, they will have a strong, solid foundation to build on for the rest of their life.

Be sure to check out more reading resources:

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