Reading Readiness : 6 Pre-Reading Skills that Indicate Your Child is Ready to Learn How to Read

Reading Readiness: pre-reading skills that indicate your child is ready to learn how to read. There is a lot of wonderment around when the best time is for parents to begin teaching their child to read. All children are different and it may be up to you to determine when your child displays reading readiness; when they are ready to begin learning how to read.

Are you eager to teach your toddler how to read? How young is too young for your child to take on learning how to read? Taking the first steps toward teaching your little one how to read is extremely exciting! In this post, we will explore the pre-reading skills that indicate whether or not your child is ready to begin learning how to read along with ways you can enhance their reading readiness during your everyday activities. 

Is Your Child Showing Signs of Reading Readiness?

Your child has most likely been exposed to language, stories, and print since the day they were born. In that case, believe it or not, you’ve already set your child on their path toward beginning reading! That’s something to celebrate! With every book you read, every story you tell, they are developing both language and pre-reading skills (that reminded me of a The Police song), and at a very rapid pace. It’s understandable if you believe your child is in the position to learn how to read. So, let’s get right into the pre-reading milestones that indicate they are ready, regardless of age or grade level.

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Before we get started, let me first express myself…

Research shows, over and over again, that reading aloud to your child is the most important activity you can do as a parent. This is their golden ticket for gaining the knowledge required for success in reading. The amount of exposure to language, vocabulary, print and stories that reading aloud to your child gives is astonishing and can help build on all these pre-reading skills at once. With that said, let’s get started!

Reading Readiness: 6 Pre-Reading Skills that Indicate Your Child is Ready to Learn How to Read

Print Awareness

Print awareness means understanding that print visually represents spoken language. Print has an order and a purpose. English is read from left to right, top to bottom. Sentences and phrases contain words marked with spaces in between each word and words contain letters. Print also has a purpose and that is to convey information. There are a few ways your child may show they have print awareness:

  • Books are held correctly, with the title facing upright.
  • While being read to, your child views pages from left to the right and turns the pages of the book in the right direction.
  • While drawing or coloring, they scribble more intently and attempt to draw letters and words.
  • They show curiosity in the words on the page asking what it says or pointing out letters they know.

Print Motivation

Print Motivation is simple. If your child enjoys books, is interested in books, requests that you read to them, or takes the initiative to attempt to read books on their own or with you, they display print motivation. This is a beautiful thing!

  • Your child enjoys books and requests that you read to them.
  • They take the initiative to attempt reading.
  • While out and about, they point to print and recognize its presence.

Narrative Ability

Can your child tell a story from beginning to end? Does what they tell you make sense? Although this is in the realm of communication and language skills, it falls under pre-reading skills because of story structure. Having the ability to retell stories, give instructions, or comprehend what has occurred in an organized manner are great signs your child is prepared to take on reading.

  • At bedtime, recount the day with your child.
  • Ask your child about an experience they have enjoyed.
  • While they are explaining something to you, ask probing questions to gain more information they would not otherwise share with you.
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During the first years of life, children are exposed to thousands upon thousands of words! Vocabulary increases the more you read aloud to them. This pre-reading skill has everything to do with having the ability to label and name things, feelings, concepts, and ideas. In other words, your child utilizes a large enough vocabulary to describe and explain their world and the world around them.

  • Your child utilizes vocabulary correctly and with ease.
  • They can properly label things, feelings, concepts, and ideas.

Phonological Awareness

This skill is critical for your child’s success in reading. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear sounds in spoken language. This includes identifying and playing with sounds of words in activities such as rhyming, counting syllables, playing with alliteration, and segmenting words in sentences and sounds in words. Note that this skill does not have anything to do with the visual alphabet used to construct printed language and has everything to do with what your child can hear and play around with. Phonological awareness is the strongest indicator of later reading achievement and good news, you can work on this skill in almost every situation, anytime, any place!

  • Your child has begun identifying and playing with sounds of words through rhyming, alliteration.
  • They can hear individual words in sentences and individual sounds in words.

Check out more about phonemic awareness – a sub-category of phonological awareness – in this blog post.

Phonemic Awareness: First Steps to Learning How to Read. Features a mother and her baby sitting on a couch reading a book.

Letter Knowledge

This final pre-reading skill is fairly self-explanatory. If your child can recognize letters and has knowledge and insight into each letter of the alphabet, they are on a great path toward reading acquisition. This pre-reading skill mainly focuses on building your child’s confidence around letter names, their shapes (both lowercase and uppercase), how to write them, and their sounds. Your child does not need to have mastered all of the letters in order to begin learning how to read; however, as they grow into readers their letter knowledge will solidify. 

Letters are all around. There are so many activities you can do with your child to build their letter knowledge. A great place to start is with their name! Children take much pride in their name! Use the letters in their name to connect with letters in your name or their sibling’s name.

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