Researchers have identified six important pre-reading skill areas that we can help children develop before they learn to read -around the age of six. 6 by 6, Ready to Read: Six Skills by Six Years was developed by Johnson County Library, Johnson County, KS.
Looking for hands-on activities to help your child develop their pre-reading skills? You've come to the right place.
Have Fun with Books
If we want our children to enjoy books and reading, we have to make reading fun! Print motivation is a crucial part of early literacy and is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Choose books your child loves (yes, even if it is the millionth time), find books you enjoy reading aloud, and read with enthusiasm. Never force reading and don’t be afraid to stop halfway through a story. Young children that see reading as fun are more likely to be motivated to learn to read later!
- Make books an everyday part of your life and visiting the library a regular stop.
- Look for books with repeated phrases so your children can learn to join in on the story!
- Don’t be afraid to let babies explore board books. Chewing and tossing is just their curiosity at work!
- Add some drama to your storytimes! Reading with silly voices, animal noises, and ridiculous facial expressions add to your child’s understanding of storytelling and makes the experience more fun.
- Make books accessible in multiple parts of your house and carry them with you. Books make a great addition to your diaper bag!
- Make sure your child knows that you love to read too. Read in your free time, tell them when you are reading on your electronic device, and check out books for yourself at the library.
Notice Print All Around You
Before a child can learn to read, they need to understand some basic concepts about how books work and that all those squiggly lines might mean something. Print awareness includes knowing how to handle a book, following the words on a page, understanding that print has a purpose, and realizing that print can be found everywhere. Help your child build this skill by taking the time to notice how words, pictures, and books are used.
- Help your child understand how a book works by pointing out the cover, making note of the author and illustrator, and letting them turn the pages.
- Encourage writing in imaginative play activities! Have your child ‘write’ grocery lists, postcards, speeding tickets, and more.
- On your next walk or errand, point out the letters and pictures you see on signs, clothing, and license plates.
- Help your child make a book using blank paper. Talk about the different parts (cover, words, pictures, beginning, middle, and end) as you make it.
- Read to your child each day. Children will learn how to handle a book simply by watching you. Turn the book upside down to see if your kid can recognize what is going on.
- Let children help in the kitchen by reading the recipe together, creating a picture recipe, or pointing out the steps as you go.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Young children learn language by hearing people around them talking. Babies begin babbling by echoing the sounds they hear, toddlers react to you pointing and naming things, and older children respond to what you say with long-winded stories and explanations. Help develop your child’s vocabulary by providing them with words and what they mean. Provide your child ample time to talk to you and truly listen to what they have to say (even if it is just gaa-gooo-ba-ma).
- Even though babies cannot speak, they still need to hear a lot of words every day. Talk about where you are going while in the car, read your shopping list out loud at the grocery store, and say goodnight to lamps and closets before you tuck your child in at night.
- It is easy to get stuck in a rut asking your child to point to their nose, ears, head, and so on. Why not add in some vocabulary words and have your toddler find their thigh, bellybutton, ankle, and knuckles?
- Name all the things you can see in a particular room in your house. Be sure to talk about what each item is used for. Do this simple activity often enough and your child will be able to identify and use the objects on their own!
- If English isn’t your first language, speak to your child in the language you know best. This allows you to explain things more fluently so you child can learn more.
- Even young children will enjoy the pictures and information that can be found in the nonfiction section of the library. When your child tells you about a train or jellyfish, you can read more information from the book to help expand their vocabulary, knowing the names of things, actions, and ideas.
- Show your child how to ask questions (such as what, when, where, why, how, and who).
Look for Letters Everywhere
Learning to recognize letters is an important precursor to reading, but there is a lot that goes into knowing the difference between an ‘a’ and a ‘z’. Young children start out by learning shapes and sounds while older children will begin to identify all the letters of the alphabet. By pointing out the shapes and letters all around us, kids are better prepared to go beyond simply singing the alphabet song.
- Read books that feature shapes and talk to your child about what you see on each page. Try and spot those same shapes out in the world!
- Play ‘I Spy’ by looking for objects that start with the same letter of the alphabet.
- Sing the ABCs to a different tune! By separating the letter names from the traditional song, you are helping your child understand that letters are important. Try “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!”
- Help your child learn the letters in their name. Point them out on blocks, in books, and on other materials. Provide praise when your child finds these letters on their own.
- Notice the signs that catch your child’s attention. Take the time to talk about what they mean and practice obeying it.
- Use unconventional materials to make shapes and letters. Try painting triangles with cotton swabs, writing your name in the sand, or using your whole body to form the letter ‘O’.
Tell Stories About Everything
Before a child can read a story on their own, they must understand how stories work. Recognizing that stories have a beginning, middle, and end is a crucial step in reading comprehension. Ask questions as you read aloud, talk about your daily activities, and make up stories together!
- Instead of just reading the words on a page, ask your child a lot of open-ended questions as you go. What do you think will happen next? Who do you think is going to come home next? What do you think a fly tastes like?
- Before beginning your bedtime routine, ask your child to tell you about their day. What happened first?
- Let your child assist you in planning out your daily errands. Create a sequence of events by drawing a map or making a list.
- Incorporate dramatic storytelling into your playtime by using puppets to retell one of your favorite stories or reenacting a tale as a family.
- Try some pattern, sorting, and sequencing activities with your toys at home! Arrange stuffed animals by species, put blocks into a red and yellow pattern, or place books in the order that you will read them.
- Check out a wordless picture book from the library and create your own unique story to go along with the illustrations.
Take Time to Rhyme
Being able to separate sounds and understand rhyming patterns is an important marker in early literacy. By singing, sharing classic rhymes, and playing word games, your child is experiencing the rhythm of language. Working on this skill will increase your child’s ability to identify letter sounds, make predictions, and understand how language works. Bonus: singing and rhyming is a lot of fun!
- Sing all the time with your child! Singing helps break down words into single syllables because there is usually a different note for each one.
- Play a rhyming game during your next outing. Say a word and see how many rhyming words your kid can come up with! Can you rhyme any of the things you see on your walk?
- Make up silly rhyming phrases as you go about the day. What silly words can rhyme with your child’s name? Lilah Tilah? Henry Grenry?
- Remember those nursery rhymes from your childhood? Pass them down to your kids. Rhymes like these help develop memory, language, and reading skills. Don’t remember any of them? Check out a nursery rhyme collection from the library!
- Make up rhymes that go with your daily activities. For example, try ‘One, two, put on my shoe’ or ‘Driving in the car, we will go far’.
- Head to the library and check out a book from the poetry section to share as a family.
6 by 6 at the Library!
The Olathe libraries rotate a variety of learning activities for young children to play and learn with! Each month at Olathe Downtown the Imagination Station focuses on different themes introducing children to basic concepts such as counting, colors, shapes, opposites, and more. Visit Olathe Indian Creek for early literacy fun with our puzzles, toys, and built-in features such as our Everbright light station and our colorful bubble wall.