Important Pre-Reading Skills for Children


Teaching children to read can be an exciting experience for parents, but how do you know where to begin? For many parents, sounding out the word seems like the most obvious place to start, as this is what we do as adults (for example, pig: /p/ /i/ /g/ > pig). Although this is an important developmental skill, there are a few things that need to be taught before children start sounding out words…


Print awareness

> Understand basic reading conventions, such as reading from left to right, holding the book the correct way (not upside-down or backwards), and locating written words on the page.
> Link the text to personal experience. Encourage children to make connections to book themes; for example, “Sam-I-Am doesn’t like Green Eggs and Ham. Do you like eggs?”


Alphabet knowledge

> Recognise both capital and lower-case letters
> Recognise their own name in print, and the letters in it
> Name the sound produced by each letter


Phonological awareness

This refers to having an understanding that spoken words are made up of smaller ‘units’ of sound. It involves a number of skills, such as:
> Segmenting words in sentences

(e.g. ‘How are you?’ = 3 words)

> Segmenting syllables in words

(e.g. ‘pillow’ = pi/llow = 2 syllables)

> Identifying and producing words that rhyme

(e.g. Which word rhymes with hot? sat, pot, hit; Can you think of some words that rhyme with ‘rat’? hat, cat, bat)

> Blending sounds together, and blending syllables together to form words

(e.g. /s/ /a/ /t/ = sat; ‘choc’ ‘o’ ‘late’ = chocolate)

> Identifying individual sounds in words

(e.g. what is the first sound in ‘phone’? /f/)

> Identifying words that begin/end with the same sound

(e.g. corn, cup; duck, stick)


Narrative language
> Retell a familiar story in their own words
> Talk about what characters are saying, feeling and thinking in stories they have heard


Have an interest in learning to read
If children have no desire to sound out words, and both parent and child are constantly frustrated, it will likely end in a negative experience for all. If children are ready and motivated to learn to read, you may expect to see the following:
– They enjoy listening to stories
– They frequently ask you to read aloud to them
– They pretend to read along with you


Here are some tips to help children develop the above skills:
– Introduce books by their title. Ask children to identify book titles and authors
– Point out print in the environment (for example, the cereal box, street signs, writing on t-shirts)
– Sing the Alphabet song regularly, pointing out each letter on a chart whilst singing
– Have children sort capital and lower-case letters. You may like to label toys with letters, and encourage children to place the toys in boxes with their matching letter
– Read rhyming books, and listen to songs that contain rhyme. Encourage your child to fill in blanks
– Encourage your child to clap out each word in a poem or sentence, and each syllable in a word
– Encourage children to re-enact familiar stories using props and dress-ups

Happy pre-reading!!


Kaderavek, J., & Justice, L. (2004). Embedded-explicit emergent literacy intervention II: Goal
selection and implementation in the early childhood classroom. Language, Speech, and
Hearing Services in Schools
, 35, 212-228.
Paul, R., & Norbury, C. F. (2012). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence:
Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Communicating
(4th ed.). St. Louis, Missouri:
Elsevier Mosby.


Written by Eloise Wright, Speech Pathologist, February 2015.

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