When I was teaching first grade, I often got the question from kindergarten and even PreK teachers asking “What can we do to prepare students for learning to read?” I always felt like I was walking a thin line when it came to this discussion because what I did NOT want to encourage was pressuring students, stressing them out, and making reading hard because it was being pushed earlier than they were ready for. As a mom of three kiddos, I also knew that there were some really easy thing that could be done very naturally and appropriately to help children develop a love of reading while also encouraging and exposing them to early literacy skills.
Here are a few things you could toss into your literacy routines with preschoolers (or even toddlers) to get them ready for reading.
Read to them. Every single day.
This tip is probably the most common one given. If we encourage a love of reading by making it a warm, shared, and fun experience, children will know about all the amazing stories and information books can hold. This can also help children to identify as readers.
Put books in their hands
Whether you give children access to many books to choose from, or invite them to hold the book you’re reading together, just watching and practicing holding books helps children to begin to develop their awareness of concepts about print. They’ll learn how to hold a book properly, turn pages, and enjoy the story! While they can and will observe you using these skills when you read, they need lots of practice with books to do this on their own.
Point to the words.
When you’re reading a book with just a few words (board books and early readers are great for this) point to the words. You can also point to important words as you read. Just watching you do this practice begins to help children understand that the words help tell the story.
Practice left-right Directionality
Connecting lines or images, sliding or moving your finger from left to right under the text is a great way to help children notice the left-right directionality used when we read and write in English.
Read Patterned/ Predictable text:
You don’t have to ALWAYS read these kind of basic patterned stories, but exposing children to predictable text helps them to begin to use reading strategies, like using the picture to predict how the pattern will change.
Read books again and again
Remember that children often don’t tire of stories like grown ups do. They like to read “again” and “again” and so many of these skills can be inserted each time as you read so your children can begin to become experts about the book. They are ready to point to the pictures and words, name and notice the characters and even begin to “read” the story on their own!
One of my favorite ways to practice some of these early literacy skills are through interactive read alouds. I have begun creating a few for my own kiddo as she practices basic concepts. You can check them out in my TPT shop here:
Engaging in natural discussion
Talk about what’s happening in the story. Ask the child to point to the page to show you things (I Noticed the flower in this page. Do you see the flower?) React to the story (“oh no! Look what happened!). This is like a “think aloud” and helps children to understand what you’re thinking as you read. You can also begin to ask some basic questions about the text, but I always like to avoid quizzing students at this age… or any age really. Genuine discussion helps you to model and learn a lot more about their understanding of the text. If you’re interested in some of my suggestions for questioning really young readers, I’ve written more about that here.
Make Reading Interactive:
I love books that have moving pieces and parts. Whether it’s a lift the flap type book, or a book that has some sort of task. While we have a few favorites, I have started making some that reinforce the concepts that my own little one is learning, like colors, feelings, and vocabulary. I’ve shown photos from a few of these printable resources in this post, and you can check them out here!