Skip to main content
Your Pre-Kindergarten Child

Reading 101 for Parents: Your Pre-K Child

Discover the typical literacy milestones for your pre-kindergarten child, and how to support your child’s developing skills in reading and writing. Use the links on the left to find activities, videos, and other resources to build skills in these key areas: understanding what print is, recognizing the sounds in speech, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.

Literacy milestones

In this sections you’ll get an overview of the reading and writing skills that are typical for 4-year-olds. Remember that kids develop at different rates, so don’t be worried if your child isn’t doing some of these things yet. If you do have concerns, talk to your pediatrician.

If you’re concerned …

Browse the resources in our Helping All Readers section to learn more about why some children have difficulties learning to read.

You may also want to read the article Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood.


  • Enjoys listening to and talking about stories and books.
  • Knows how to hold a book and turn pages, and can identify the front and back covers
  • Understands that print carries a message, and that print is read in stories.
  • Participates in rhyming and alliteration games.
  • Makes attempts to “read.”
  • Identifies familiar signs and labels.
  • Can identify 10 or more alphabet letters, especially the letters in own name.
  • Begins to recognize beginning sounds in spoken words and other letter-sound matches.
  • Speech is understandable but makes mistakes pronouncing long, difficult, or complex words such as hippopotamus.
  • Uses new vocabulary and grammar in their speech.
  • Has fun with language. Enjoys poems and recognizes language absurdities such as, “Is that an elephant on your head?”
  • Uses verbs that end in “ing,” such as walking or talking, and uses some irregular past tense verbs such as ran and fell.
  • Understands and follows oral directions.
  • Understands and recalls simple sequences of events in stories.
  • Understands complex questions, and can answer “why” questions.
  • Connects information and events in stories to life experiences.


  • “Writes” (scribbles) messages in letter-like shapes as part of playful activity.
  • Begins to draw more recognizable letters and knows to use letters to represent meaningful words — including their names or phrases such as “I love you.”
  • Calls attention to own writing: “Look at my story.”
  • Observes older kids and adults writing for a purpose and want to try it, too.

Looking at Writing

See examples of real writing from pre-K children in our interactive resource, Looking at Writing.