Make Reading Part of Your Preschooler's Everyday Life

Do you enjoy reading? Do you look at the newspaper? Read magazines? Go to the library? Chances are, if you do any of these activities, your preschool child is on his way to becoming a reader.

The process of learning to read is complex. While there is a lot of information about this process, one of the most important things to know is that parents help their children learn to read as they go about the routines of everyday life.

The basics of learning to read are talking, listening, reading and writing. As children have conversations with caring adults, they hear both new and familiar words and their vocabulary grows.

Opportunities for adults and children to talk together happen during daily routines such as riding in the car or bus, doing household chores like fixing dinner and folding laundry, or bathing and getting ready for bed.

A major part of conversation is listening. When children talk, adults listen and respond. Then children listen and respond, and so the flow of conversation happens.

Remember snuggling with a favorite adult as he or she read aloud or told you stories? Have you watched your preschooler "pretend" to read to his favorite teddy bear or younger sibling? Have you read his favorite story over and over and over again? These experiences tell children that reading is fun. And when things are fun, they are repeated.

During these reading experiences, children become familiar with many elements of print, such as words and the symbols (letters) that go together to make words.

As your child sees letters, she begins to connect them to familiar words, especially the letters that make up her name. It is a natural next step for her to want to write those letters.

Children will copy the actions of the adults who are important to them. When they see parents make a grocery list, they want to use pencil and paper to make their own list. A simple way to encourage these beginning writing activities is to have pencils, markers, crayons and scrap paper available for your child to use.

The more children get to practice behaviors connected with talking, listening, reading and writing, the easier it is for them to become enthusiastic readers. While you as a parent have a big influence on these early literacy behaviors, it is important to remember that opportunities for literacy experiences occur while you and your child share in the basic routines of everyday life.

National Center for Family Literacy. Make Reading Part of Your Preschooler's Everyday Life. © 2007. This article may be reprinted only with permission of the original publisher.


For any reprint requests, please contact the author or publisher listed.


I had a friend who didn't learn any English until kindergarten. She speaks perfect English, and caught on very quickly. My niece on the other hand learns mainly English, but she is taught minor, and basic French at the moment (she's 1 and a half). I actually was reading a menu with her recently at a restrant and I pointed to the word sandwich and said it aloud. After that she pointed to the word and said, "Sandwich." I feel like if you try doing that with your children they'll eventually pick up words and start connecting them to not only images but letters as well. :)

my son is 11 years and he struggles to read and write. when a passage is read to him he gives excellent answers but cannot put that in writing. how can you help, i am desperate for assistance.

Reading to your children can whet their appetite to read and motivate them to learn how. It is crucial that they want to read before they become so hooked on TV or video games that their desire to read ebbs.

You mention Reading, Writing, Listening and Talking as essential for learning to read. My favorite preschool curriculum which teaches all of these is "An Ant - Learn to Read" by Broden Books. I highly recommend it. Preschool or kindergarten children learn to sound out simple words and write them as well. Flash cards are included for teaching the letter sounds.

My son is 5 years old and he is in kindergarten. He stammers and I wanted to know if there is anything I can do to assist him with his speech and will stammering affect his ability to excell.

Trisha, Another way you could reinforce the directionality of letters is to use her love of drawing and painting. Provide letter stencils along with markers, pencils, and paint. Encourage and guide her to be creative and think of animals or objects she can draw that have particular letter shapes or things that could be used to associate with that letter. For example, the letter The letter p could be drawn as a person diving into a pool. The letter d (lowercase)could be a dog with someone walking it on a leash. Most children have a great sense of creativity. Once you provide her some ideas and guide her, she will begin to come up with some pretty interesting ones of her own.

Trisha, the fact your daughter is in kindergarten and experiencing these issues is a great thing. It's equally important that you recognized this at this stage. Regarding the reversal of letters, this is common to many kindergarten and first grade students. As many letters have similar shapes and lines, it can be a challenge in remembering, distinguishing, and writing certain letters correctly. Letters which have common shape are often reversed when writing or reading. Those letters are p, q, d, b, g, j. You may see reversal of other letters. However, they are rare. A couple of things you mentioned that she has trouble recognizing some letters and numbers and says words backwards. I'm assuming that when you say that she says words backwards, you are referring to when she is reading. All of these issues you mention are related to visual processing (the way the brain processes and receives visual information). Here are some tips for correcting the backward letter writing and reading words backwards. One is to work with her on completing puzzles appropriate for her age. Puzzles are great for this issue and skill as they require you to focus on the visual features of the pieces in order to figure out where they go. And, they also require you recognize that no matter which direction the shape is turned, it is still the same piece. Identifying those letters I mentioned earlier, requires the same skills. Children, first of all need plenty of practice and exposure to those letters to be able to recognize and identify them. Additionally, they need to visually recognize and understand the visual features of the word, its direction, and how it would look if turned a different way. Be sure that you work one-on-one with her and not her just working alone. You will be able to help her attend to the features of the puzzle pieces. You act as her guide through verbal direction and description. Also, you may want to purchase some foam letters and numbers. Trace the letters, Then call out a letter and have her place them in their correct places. Buy letter and number books, have her trace the letters with her fingers and discuss their shapes. If you don't mind the mess, you could use shaving cream and have her make letters and numbers using her fingers. The world is your open book, create learning moments when you're out. Point out letters and words wherever you go. Play games and see how many b's you can find in the grocery store or elsewhere. Make learning at home fun. There are numerous activities, you could do. When you mentioned that she has a hard time staying focused. Is this at home, at school, or both. Well, welcome to the world of kindergartners. This is why it takes exceptionally patient people to teach kindergarten. Children this age have a short attention span period. In the classroom, instruction should be engaging, structured, include a variety of activities, and have minimal distractions. At home, if you are working with her make sure the activity is engaging (fun or interactive), in small time frames, and there are no surrounding distractions (t.v. is off, music off, quiet room, clean work area). These are all important in helping her to stay focused, especially on a task as demanding as learning to read. Learning to focus requires practice and plenty of formal and informal opportunities to do so. You mentioned setting up a station filled with markers, paper, etc. These are great for her creativity and hand-eye coordination. Just remember that what she needs most is your support and that you are the most important teacher and leader of her academic and reading success. So be sure to guide her as she works on reading and writing. These activities involve turning abstract letters and numbers in to concrete objects that have meaning which are attached to sounds or objects. Start off with these and be consistent, you should see begin to notice some changes. Remember to read, read, and read some more every day. Or, read at least three times a week if your schedule doesn't allow for this. The more she is read to the more exposure she gains to letters and numbers. You are the key for her reading success and setting a great reading foundation for life. Natasha, Reading Specialist

My daughter BRaley is 5 she will be 6 July 19th 2011, and she is in Kind. She is haveign some trouble with reconziing some letters and numbers. She also seems to want to say some workds backwards and also write some letters backwards! She has a great support team at her school. As well as at home. Would it be beneficial for me to set up a supply station at home filled with plenty of markers, paper, charts etc. Just so it is at her fingertips. She loves to draw and paint I think this could be very useful in helping her. She also has a hard time staying focused. Unless it is someting that really holds her attention. Any suggestions!

Rosa, all babies are born with the ability to become naturally bilingual if provided the proper environment. The ages of 3 and under are the best periods for children to learn a second language. Their brains are more plastic during this period, meaning they have a greater capacity for learning new skills. Being bilingual means that a person is proficient in both languages-having a great command of two languages simultaneously. If Spanish is your strength and you feel more comfortable speaking Spanish, I suggest that you speak Spanish exclusively to your child. If you are more comfortable with Spanish, I presume that your English is not-proficient. It is possible to have a greater understanding of a second language (receptive) and a weaker verbalization of that language which is fine for you. However, if you want your child to become bilingual in both Spanish and English, it is best if you provide opportunities for her to hear people who have a great command of that language. Taking her to storytime, surrounding her with children and adults who are proficient in English will offer her great exposure and opportunities to learn the English language. This will provide her with the context needed to understand the meanings behinds phrases, sentences, and objects needed for becoming successfully bilingual. On another note, giving her the opportunity to hear, understand, and learn English at an early age will prevent her from encountering later learning to read in English difficulties that many non-English speaking or non-proficient English speaking students typically have. So, continue to speak to her in Spanish- and find her a English speaking playgroup or English instruction class for toddlers to gain a great command, proficiency, of the English language and avoid English reading difficulties later. And you can continue speaking and reading to her in Spanish, your stronger language, to help her gain great reading and Spanish speaking abilities. Natasha, Reading Specialist,

My daughter is 12yrs and I just realized that she is Dyslexia. I will like to help her in anyway that I can. She goes to a Dutch school but have problem speaking English also. How can I help her.

My baby is 20 months old and I'm not sure what is better for her, if I mix the 2 languages (english-spanish) or choose only one to read/speak to her. Sometimes I see her confused when I name an object in English and then in Spanish. What should be better for her? I feel more confident speaking Spanish to her but I want her to understand other kids/story time/adults. Thanks in advance for your help!

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase