Raising a Reader

Experts have identified activities that can help your child get ready to read. Engaging children in these simple activities every day can help them develop early literacy skills.

Kids aged 3 – 5 years old can benefit from these activities:

1. Talking

Children learn about language by listening to parents talk and joining in the conversation. Talking, telling stories, and stretching conversations are ways children learn new information, new vocabulary, and other early literacy skills.

2. Writing

Reading and writing go together. Both are ways to represent spoken words and to communicate information. As children scribble and draw, they practice eye-hand coordination and exercise the muscles in their fingers and hands. This helps develop fine motor control they need to hold a pencil or crayon and to write letters and words.

3. Reading

No matter what the age, reading to your child is the single most important activity that you can do to help your child get ready to read. It introduces children to “rarer” words that they may not hear in everyday conversation. Shared reading develops a love of reading and an appreciation of books. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read.

Talking Activities
  • Talk all day.
    • Talk about what you’re doing as you go through your day. Ask your child questions, listen to the answers, and then ask another question based on what your child said.
    • Think of “10 chances to chat” during the day: while they’re getting dressed, eating breakfast, riding in the car, doing chores, taking a bath, going to bed, etc. Use every opportunity you can to converse with your child.
    • Use wordless picture books and make up a story together with your child. Wordless books develop imagination along with language and vocabulary skills.
  • Use objects.
    • Look for print on objects and signs. Point out letters as you go through daily routines: “Can you find an M on the milk?” or “Can you find the letter at the beginning of your name?”
  • Use books.
    • Books are a wonderful way to spend time talking and learning new words. Your child learns many more new words from books that they do from everyday conversation.
Writing Activities
  • What’s in a name?
    • Your child’s name is one of the most important words he or she will learn. It is one of the first words your child will want to read and write. Print your child’s name in large letters. Have your child trace over your letters to get a better feel for them, and then practice copying the whole word.
    • Have your child write their name in a tray of rice.
    • Encourage your child to sign their name on their drawing. Even if this begins as a scribble, children learn that it represents their name.
  • Talk about writing.
    • Talk to your child about what he or she draws, ask questions, and respond to what your child says.
  • Use objects.
    • Make letter-shaped cookies (and eat them!) with your child.
    • Use magnetic letters on your refrigerator.
    • Once your child can grasp a thick crayon or marker, give him or her unlined paper and plenty of opportunities to draw and write.

Learn more

Parents and caregivers, here are some books on writing for kids.

Reading Activities
  • Do it together.
    • Let your child see you enjoying reading. They see that you think reading is important and that you enjoy it, and they will follow your lead.
    • Children learn best by doing – and they love doing things with YOU. Shared reading is the best way to help your child get ready to read and also learn new vocabulary.
    • When you read together, ask open-ended questions: “What do you think is going to happen next?,” “What would you do if that happened to you?” or “How would you feel?”
  • Be repetitive.
    • Reading predictable books with your child increases your child’s vocabulary by using repetitive language patterns and phrases which engage children in reading before they actually learn to read.
  • Use an alphabet book.
    • Come to the library to find an alphabet book! Alphabet books offer many wonderful opportunities to learn letter names and sounds.

Learn more

Parents and caregivers, here are some books on reading for kids.

4. Playing

Play is one of the best ways for children to learn language and literacy skills. Play helps children to think symbolically; a ruler becomes a magic wand, today becomes a time when dinosaurs were alive, a playmate becomes an astronaut exploring space. Play helps children understand that written words stand for real objects and experiences. Dramatic play helps develop narrative skills as children make up a story about what they’re doing. This helps them understand that stories happen in an order (first, next, last).

5. Singing

Songs help children develop listening skills and pay attention to the rhythms and rhymes of spoken language. Singing slows down language so children can hear different parts of words and notice how they are alike and different. Clapping along to rhythms help children hear the syllables in words, and it improves motor skills.

Playing Activities
  • Make things together.
    • Make an alphabet book with your child. Draw pictures together or cut out pictures from magazines to go with each letter.
    • Make letters out of cardboard and have your child put the letter under a piece of paper. Color over the letter with crayons and watch the letter underneath the paper magically appear.
  • Write.
    • Write letters in shaving cream in the bath tub or shower.
    • Use chalk to write letters or words on a chalkboard or sidewalk. Give your child a paintbrush and water. Your child can dip the brush in the water and “erase” what you have written over it with the water.
  • Act it out.
    • Let your child act out a story with dress-up clothes, or with puppets. Pretend and dramatic play develops language skills.
  • I Spy.
    • Play I Spy. “I spy with my little eye something that stats with the letter P. What is it?”
Singing Activities
  • Use the alphabet.
    • Children love to sing the alphabet song. It’s one of the easiest ways to help them learn the alphabet so sing it often. TIP: If your child says “elemeno” (L-M-N-O) as one word, help you child slow down and say the individual letters.
    • Teach your child the “Name Song.”.
      There is a child that I know bestAnd Noah is his name oh,

      N-O-A-H, N-O-A-H, N-O-A-H

      And Noah is his name oh.

  • Clap and use rhythms.
    • Clap while you sing songs.
    • Clapping along to rhythms helps your child hear the syllables in words. It also helps them improve their motor skills.
    • Sing songs with rhyming words, silly words, and long stretched out words.
    • Sing songs fast, slow, and over and over. Singing helps children remember things for a longer time.
  • Change the words to familiar tunes like “Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush.”

This is the way we wash our mittens,
Wash our mittens, wash our mittens,
This is the way we wash our mittens,
Early in the morning.

This is the way we eat our pie,
Eat our pie, eat our pie,
This is the way we eat our pie,
Early in the evening.

This is the way we say yum-yum,
Say yum-yum, say yum-yum,
This is the way we sat yum-yum,
Every day at dinner.