My firstborn has been a reader all of her life, or at least it seems that way. Before she could actually read, she asked to be read to…constantly. As an avid reader myself, I loved it (and still do!). But because it came so naturally to her, I gave it very little thought as to how it developed and basically chalked it up to my naturally superior parenting (obviously). Then, my son was born, and reality set in.
He didn’t bring me stacks of books to read. He tore pages. He was not interested in sitting still for me to point to words. I was convinced that he would never learn to read, much less love to read, like his sister. Suddenly, I became much more intentional about raising a reader.
If you have a little one who isn’t a natural-born bibliophile like my oldest, or if you just want to get your preschooler off to a strong start with literacy skills, there are simple activities that you can incorporate into your daily activities to help lead your preschoolers toward reading readiness.
5 Tips for Developing Literacy Skills in Preschoolers
- Sing songs While my son wasn’t interested in sitting still and reading, he was definitely interested in me acting a fool while singing and dancing to a silly song. So we made up songs about letters and sounds.
My kids still fondly remember one of my classics when they ask for fruit: “B, Banana, buh, buh, Banana, B!” I’m not quite Gwen Stefani, but you get the idea.
If making up your own songs isn’t your thing, there are plenty of great options available for free online. Jack Hartmann songs are a personal favorite, especially the Learning Letters Song or The Alphabet Song for introducing letters and sounds.
A search for “phonics songs” or “preschool songs” on your favorite music source will lead to a wide assortment of songs that introduce letters and sounds to your kids in a fun, nonthreatening way, which is key to getting started in flexing those literacy skills muscles.
2. Talk to your kids This sounds like a no-brainer, but we have to talk to our kids. Engage them, challenge them, talk about the scenery on your drive, talk about what you’re doing during the day, talk about what they are eating, anything. Just talk. This is how they are introduced to new vocabulary. The greater their vocabulary, the easier it will be for them to learn to read because they will already be familiar with a larger number of words.
3. Play with letters Incorporating letters into your regular playtime is a great way to boost literacy skills in young children. Use Play-doh, paint, pipe cleaners, sticks, or sand to form letters. Talk about what the letters look like and sound like. Again, doing this in a natural setting makes learning fun, not a chore.
4. Visit local libraries Take advantage of your local libraries. This is one of my very favorite resources for building literacy skills in preschoolers. Visiting the library for story times or to check out their own books, is a great way to get kids excited about reading.
Visit the Dallas Public Library Kids Page for information on storytimes (which are currently virtual) and other amazing resources. You can even sign up for “Once Upon a Month”, which is a program that will send children 0-5 years of age a FREE BOOK each month. (Currently only available for Dallas County residents.)
5. READ! The absolute best way to improve your preschooler’s literacy skills is to read to them. Have books available everywhere. Find books on topics that they like. Utilize pockets of time to read to them — carpool, bath time, doctors appointments, bedtime. You don’t have to sit for hours on end, but rather a few minutes here or there will add up.
Point to the words on the page. Show them the correlation between the written word and the words they hear. Let them see how the pictures help tell the story. These will be key literacy skills for them as they begin reading independently.
“There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of Books is the best of all” — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Teaching your child to read can seem like a daunting task. But these simple, day-to-day tasks will build the literacy skills of your preschooler, and help launch them into a lifetime of reading.