Reading Activities for Preschoolers

Man reading with his son

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While your preschooler probably isn't reading yet, many kids in this age group are interested in books and how to read them. If you regularly read to your child, you may start to notice some changes as your child begins to take more interest in learning how to read. There also are some things you can do to encourage their interest, including reading with them often and talking about different letters and words you see every day.

Signs of Reading Readiness

Signs of reading readiness in children include:

  • Can tell a story in their own words after hearing a book read aloud
  • Has strong active and passive vocabularies
  • Is around 4 or 5 years old (although some start sooner)
  • Memorizes and recites some books accurately page for page
  • Pretends to read
  • "Reads" from left to right naturally
  • Takes an interest in words around them on signs, logos, etc.
  • Tries to read books or other words by starting to sound them out
  • Understands the relationship between letters and their sounds
  • Writes their own name

Once your child starts to show these signs, begin practicing reading by working on sight words, having a word of the day, and implementing reading activities. Pay attention to the cues that your preschooler is giving you and go slow. You won't teach your child to read in a day. Instead, focus on building interest in reading and laying a foundation for reading skills that will develop as your child gets older.

Why Reading Preparation Is Important

Learning to read takes time and practice—more than kids can possibly get in preschool and kindergarten. For this reason, it's important that parents take the time to work with their young children to develop reading skills. Research shows that when children become good readers early on, they become better learners throughout their school years.

It also pays off in the end to build a solid foundation for reading while kids are young.

One study found that the quality of parent-child book reading interactions predicts a child's future vocabulary, reading comprehension, and internal motivation to read. Researchers also found that a parent's vocabulary during reading time is more sophisticated than when they are not reading with their child. This fact is important in exposing children to the richness that language provides and expanding their exposure to new words.

Reading Activities for Preschoolers

It's never too early to start developing pre-reading skills with your child. Pay attention to signs that your child is ready to begin reading, and implement a few reading-based activities into your daily routine. Here are some ideas on things you can do with your child.

  • Read books that offer a lot of repeated lines and phrases. Repetition helps your child remember what comes next and lets them take an active role in your reading sessions.
  • Let your child fill in some blanks as you read books together. After a while, your child will likely become familiar with the story. When a child is able to recite a book (or most of one) word for word, it builds their confidence. Learning to read takes courage, and using books that offer repetition is a great way to help your child feel good about what they are doing.
  • Pause and ask your child what they think will happen next as you are reading a new book. Getting your child to think critically about a book, beyond what they have read on the page, is a great skill that will help them with comprehension down the line. When you talk about a story with your child, you're helping them build their vocabulary, and helping them to make sense of what is going on.
  • Draw attention to the words your preschooler sees every day. Any time you see a word, whether it's on a passing sign or a cereal box, point it out and read it to your preschooler. Making a shopping list? Let your preschooler help by writing the words as you dictate the letters.
  • Ask your preschooler to tell you a story. Write it down so you can read it back to them later. Point to each word as you say it. If you can, put it into book format with pictures.
  • Pull out a bunch of old magazines and a pair of safety scissors. Together with your preschooler, cut out words you find. See if you can find a picture to match. Alternatively, you can cut individual letters out to make words.
  • Let your preschooler know that everything has a word associated with it. Take index cards and label everything—the couch, the bathtub, the refrigerator, and so on. Eventually, your preschooler will absorb these words and be able to recognize them in books and on signs.
  • Ask friends or relatives to send your preschooler cards and letters that you can read together. Make sure the handwriting is clear and legible and that the words are easy to understand. Once you are finished reading, help your preschooler write back to their new pen pal.

A Word From Verywell

Learning to read, while ultimately rewarding, can be a frustrating, time-consuming process for both you and your child. If you find your child is getting tired or cranky during your reading activities, take a break and try again another day. Remember, you won't teach your child to read in a day.

Instead, your goal is to build their interest level and help prepare them for reading as they mature. More importantly, you want to build a love for books and show your child how reading can open their world to new and exciting information, ideas, and adventure.

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Article Sources
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  1. Miller CP. Before They Read: Teaching Language and Literacy Development Through Conversations, Interactive Read-Alouds, and Listening Games. Gainesville, FL: Maupin House Publishing, Inc.; 2010.

  2. National Institute of Health. Put reading first.

  3. Ece Demir-Lira Ö, Applebaum LR, Goldin-Meadow S, Levine SC. Parents' early book reading to children: Relation to children's later language and literacy outcomes controlling for other parent language input. Dev Sci. 2019;22(3):e12764. doi:10.1111/desc.12764. PMID: 30325107

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