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6 Important Pre-Reading Skills For Your Child

Learning to read is actually something you can begin teaching your child from birth!

By implementing simple everyday activities, your child will develop the necessary pre-reading skills to make learning to read a very smooth process!

What is Pre-Reading?

Pre-reading skills are essentially the foundational skills children need to master before they can become successful readers.

When children are developmentally ready to start formally reading, they will use these 6 pre-reading skills to decode and understand the meaning of each word on the page.

Pre-reading skills

Why Pre-Reading Skills are Important?

Unlike communication and language learning, reading is not something that comes naturally. This skill must be learned and in order to avoid frustration, caregivers must create a safe and fun learning environment to help their child become competent in reading.

According to a study performed by the Department of Education, 130 million Americans lack literacy proficiency. This means that nearly half the adult population reads below a 6th-grade reading level.

It is important for us to identify the needs of our children and perform early interventions to help set them up for success in reading, writing, and comprehension.

6 Pre-Reading Skills + Activities to Develop Each Skill

Helping your child to develop these 6 pre-reading skills using easy activities is an amazing way to help them to become confident and proficient young readers.

Skill 1: Interest and Motivation to Read

For children to learn how to read, they must first have a desire to learn how to decode and understand the words on the page.

A baby may not yet have this interest, but a toddler who is read to every day will start developing this motivation to read.

Activities to Encourage Motivation to Read:

  • Read to your child daily with enthusiasm
  • Make sure your child is seeing you and other caregivers reading books
  • Let your child pick out which books to read
  • Bring your child to places like the library or bookstores to promote interest
Pre-reading skills

Skill 2: Vocabulary

This skill is sometimes referred to as oral language skills. It is simply when children know the names of things and can connect those words to objects, feelings, and even ideas.

Research has shown that children who have larger vocabularies tend to become more proficient readers and have better academic success.

Activities to Encourage Vocabulary:

  • As you read with your child expand on what is being read, describe the pictures or illustrations, and always explain the ”big words” that your child is unfamiliar with
  • Use descriptive words when playing with toys or doing arts and crafts
  • Talk to your child as much as you can – what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, what you see, etc.

Skill 3: Narrative Skills

When a child has proficient narrative skills, they are able to describe things they see, smell, touch, taste, hear, and even think.

Having good narrative skills also includes the ability for a child to tell and retell a story.

Activities to Encourage Narrative Skill:

  • Playing games like I Spy
  • After reading a book, ask your child to retell part of the story to you
  • Ask your child to predict what will happen next when reading together
  • Encourage pretend play as this is a fun way to improve your child’s communication and narrative skills

Skill 4: Print Awareness

Print awareness is the understanding that all the print on the pages of books are words that represent a meaning.

This skill also involves knowing how to handle books and understanding that the words are read from left to right.

Activities to Encourage Print Awareness:

  • Point to the words as you are reading with your child
  • Read everything together! – Signs, labels, and even restaurant menus
  • Allow your child to turn the pages when reading together
  • Hold books upside down, or turn the pages the wrong way to see if your child will correct it
Pre-reading skills

Skill 5: Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is the understanding that words are comprised of syllables and sounds that we can blend, separate, and interchange.

By 3 to 4 years of age, children should understand that the word ball starts with the b sound and ends with the l sound. Being able to play with these different sounds is a major pre-reading skill.

Activities to Encourage Phonological Awareness:

  • Play rhythming games – ask your child ”what words sound like ball”
  • Say words very slowly and sound out the different sounds: say ”b-a-t”
  • When saying words, make a clap or tap sound for each syllable
  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes together with your child

Skill 6: Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is when children can recognize all the letters of the alphabet. They should also be able to distinguish upper and lowercase letters and say the names of the letters with their associated sounds.

LeapFrog has one of the best learning tools to help your child with letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and vocabulary.

Activities to Encourage Letter Knowledge:

  • Play with letters together – building blocks with letters, magnetic fridge letters
  • Read alphabet books and sing the ABC song
  • Have your child point out whether the letter is upper or lowercase
  • Form letters using playdough or clay


You are your child’s first teacher! It is important to help your child develop pre-reading and pre-writing skills before they learn how to formally read and write.

By implementing simple activities into your daily routine, you can help set your child up for future success!

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