For Parents, Caregivers, and Pre-K Staff

Pre-K: Getting Ready to Read and Write

Parents, caregivers, and preschool staff play a critical role in preparing young children for school and life success. In addition to a warm and nurturing environment, the adults in children’s lives should also focus on the building blocks of reading and writing.

This overview is designed to walk you through key pre-reading building blocks, including sounds, oral language, print awareness, and letters. Within each section, you’ll find easy to read and use resources for learning more, and for trying some activities within your setting. Short videos bring concepts to life, booklists provide ideas for extension, and we provide guidance about when to have concerns about a child’s development.

Preschool children listening to read aloud

Creating literacy-rich environments

There’s no doubt that building skills in a few areas during the preschool years can make a huge difference when a child enters school. Browse through to learn more about helping preschool children learn about sounds, print, letters, and words. Finally, learn how to choose and read children’s books that will help you enjoy reading together for years to come.

Learn about each of these key areas

Sounds in speech

Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can learn to have fun with sounds! Figuring out words that rhyme, coming up with words that share a beginning sound, and saying silly words all help build a child’s phonological awareness; that is, the ability to notice, think about, and play with sounds in words. These skills will be used every time your child reads and writes!

Fun with Phonemes

One family in Raleigh, North Carolina, shows how playing word and rhyming games puts their child on the road to reading success.

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Children's Books to Read Aloud

If You Have Concerns

Print awareness

Print awareness is understanding that print is organized in a particular way — for example, knowing that print is read from left to right and top to bottom. It is knowing that words consist of letters and that spaces appear between words. Print awareness is a child's earliest introduction to literacy.

Becoming Aware of Print

Mira is two-and-a-half years old. Watch how Mira's parents help her become aware of print.

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Educational Apps

Children's Books to Read Aloud

If You Have Concerns

Letters and the alphabetic principle

One strong predictor of success in reading is a child’s familiarity with the letters of the alphabet. This includes knowing a letter’s name, shape and sound. Most good alphabet activities help kids get practice in each area.

The Alphabetic Principle

In Houston, the teacher of an advanced kindergarten class connects letters and sounds in a systematic and explicit way.

The Importance of the Alphabetic Principle

Renowned reading researcher Dr. Louisa Moats explains the need for understanding the alphabetic principle.

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Educational Apps

Children's Books to Read Aloud

If You Have Concerns

Reading together

Sharing books with your child can be among the most special moments of the day. These moments with books teach your child many reading readiness skills. Our resources in this section describe the why's and how's of reading with even the youngest child.

House Calls for Literacy

Watch as an early literacy educator visits a family at home to demonstrate and support interactive readalouds.

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Children's Books to Read Aloud

If You Have Concerns

Writing

Children, even our youngest learners, enjoy putting crayon to paper. What often starts as scribbling ends up being important clues to a child’s understanding that print carries meaning. Four-year olds often enjoy “writing” their name and other special words like Mom, Dad, love, and you. Helping your child develop writing readiness skills includes making the most out of everyday writing and providing lots of opportunity to practice!

First Marks

Writing expert Dr. Jane Hansen describes how powerful it is for very young children to realize that they can communicate through oral language — and by making "marks" on a piece of paper.

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Children's Books to Read Aloud

Educational Apps

If You Have Concerns

Developmental milestones

Find out what language accomplishments are typical for most children from birth to age three. If you have questions or concerns about your child's progress, talk with your child's doctor, teacher, or a speech and language therapist. For children with any kind of disability or learning problem, the sooner they can get the special help they need, the easier it will be for them to learn.

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Having fun with words

This brief Parenting Minute video from WNET talks about how parents and caregivers can help build their children’s language skills through storytelling, talking, singing, playing rhyming games, as well as by pointing out and discussing things throughout the day. (Video also available in Spanish, Bengali, and Chinese)

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