What Comes Before Learning To Read


20161225_080543a15 ways to help your child succeed in reading before going to school.

The whole concept of learning to read can seem mysterious.  After all, written language is only a few thousand years old, and some scientist believe that this is not enough time for our innate systems for processing reading or writing to evolve to be hardwired.

Many children do not learn to read easily, or incidentally. Learning to read is a monumental task that requires years of effort. There are several different ways to teach reading and it has always been a fiercely contested argument amongst academics.   I have always thought balance approach along with a large dose of phonics is best.

Learning to read begins once we are born – not in the classroom.  It is about development rather than a race and being done by the time the levelled readers in class are finished.

Here is a list of  15 ways you can help your children succeed with reading before they even enter a classroom. This is not an absolute list.  Please comment on the ways you inspire prereading skills.

1. Read frequently and a variety of material.  It doesn’t just have to be a story.  It could be a recipe book, leaflets in a doctors waiting room or the free magazine at the check out in your local grocery store.

2. Bedtime stories are proven to help reading success, however, if that time doesn’t suit it could always be a before dinner/ after dinner story…in the bath story or brushing teeth story.  As long as stories are read often and time is taken to indulge in storytelling on a regular basis – the actual time they are read doesn’t matter, the time taken does matter.2015-06-12 15.21.33

3. Being in a literate environment, where books and a variety of reading material is available.  Seeing family read is important as it is going to instil good reading behaviours.

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4. Go to the library on a regular basis and loan books of interest, both fiction and non-fiction. Libraries are for preschoolers too- still at that loud voice/ fast little leg stage.  Many libraries have story time and art and craft activities for preschoolers and our local library also has clubs available after school.  There are also playgroups and other groups that have story time.  When Miss C was little we went to Art Bubs at Heide MOMA and there was always a story to start the preschool art group.

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5. Play games with picture cards like snap or matching pairs and whilst playing talk about the beginning sounds of the pictures.  Listening for the individual sounds is a skill that needs to be learnt.   Playing matching pairs with letter sounds added will reinforce the shapes of the letters.

20161118_115158a6. When talking about letters always use the sounds in conjunction with the names.   Lots of people still use just the names, however, tee aee pee doesn’t say tap    /t/ /a/ /p/ does.


Rhyming objects from around our home

7. Play rhyming games, sing nursery rhymes and reading rhyming stories develops language awareness. One of favourite activities is to go on a rhyming scavenger hunt around our home and find objects that rhyme.  Rhyming strings can then be made, or the objects can be put into silly sentences.  For example –

The king wears a ring.

The bee is near the tree.

8. Put the alphabet in order and focus on the sounds.  Use different types of letters magnetic, foam and plastic etc to have a sensory experience.

9. Go on a sounds walk?  Can you hear the bus…bee…digger etc?   Learning to hear sounds in the environment can help little people to, later on, learn to hear sounds in words.  We also play name that sound using the internet (parental supervision required)  Youtube has some great educational benefits, like finding the sound of an engine, siren or animal noise for example.

10. Go on a letter sounds walk around the neighbourhood and look at the variety of signs, number plates and environmental language.


11. Use playdough, salt, rice etc for a multi-sensory experience. Learning should always be fun and not a chore.  Using the senses instead of pencil and paper methods really helps with the fun factor and I noticed with Miss C. she really needs the tactile approach to learning.

12. Always learn the sounds in your name first!  These sounds in the early days have the most meaning.

13. Play I hear with my little ear as well as I spy.  I spy can also be played with colours, shapes etc.

14. Use a tablet to read instead of a book.  There are some great apps/websites which will read stories to you.

15. Go on a sounds scavenger hunt around the house or your local area.  Either hide letter sounds cards or find objects beginning with the sounds you are focusing on.

Happy Reading!

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