What preschoolers know before they enter kindergarten is strongly related to how easily they learn to read. They should be able to recognize and name letters of the alphabet, be aware of sounds in words, rhyme, and have knowledge about how to look at a book. Preschoolers are able to tell stories, have a conversation, and begin to scribble their name. However, current research suggests that some children may not be having the early learning experiences they need to become successful readers.


As a child’s first teacher, there are activities parents can do at home that will increase early reading and writing skills. Of all these activities, reading aloud is the most important. This can be as easy as five minutes at a time. Here are some ideas to increase reading readiness of preschoolers:

  • Link reading with real-life experiences. Invite children to help you read a recipe while you are cooking, read the ads together and look for letters and words they can identify at the grocery store.
  • Don’t worry if your young child becomes distracted when you’re reading, or if you don’t get through a whole book. To make reading books more fun, use different voices for each character or add fun sounds, when appropriate, while reading books to children. Focus attention on what you are reading by pointing to words and pictures as you read.
  • Follow the child’s lead—encourage, but don’t push. If you think your child is losing interest, try to read faster or exaggerate sounds and see if they are engaging with the book.
  • Experiment with different types of reading materials to see what is of interest. Make a trip to the public library an adventure. Libraries are a great place to experiment with different books and are less expensive than buying books, as long as you return them on time. Local libraries offer a variety of programs, check with the librarian for more information.
  • Send positive messages about the joy of reading. Your excitement about reading will be contagious. If you struggle with reading aloud due to embarrassment know that to your child you are already their hero. Show them your superpower of sticking with something even when it’s hard. There are also books that come with CDs or those that are available online, that can be read by someone else while you and your child follow along. Make sure to point to the words and pictures as the book is read.


Early reading skills in preschool help children achieve greater success in later school years. The process of learning to read involves many different complex skills. Preschoolers learn best when they are doing something that is important and fun to them. To learn more about parenting your preschooler check out the online Parenting the Preschooler newsletters at https://fyi.uwex.edu/parentingthepreschooler/.  


Submitted by: Beth Rank, Burnett County UW-Extension 4-H Youth & Family Educator

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