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Reading Readiness: The Top 5 Skills

Young girl looking at book

Did you know that there are five skills your child should master before you begin formal reading instruction? Because these reading readiness skills are so important, we call them The Big Five Skills.

Although much of your child’s learning comes naturally as he plays and experiences life, there are some skills, like reading, that must eventually be taught. That may feel a little scary, but if you’ve taught your child how to pick up his toys or put on his socks, you can teach your child to read, too!

In this post, you’ll learn about the skills for reading readiness, and you’ll discover more than twenty fun ways you can help your preschooler or kindergartner develop in these areas. Let’s dig in!

5 Critical Skills for Reading Readiness

  1. Print Awareness

    Print awareness is the understanding that the print on a page represents words that have meaning and are related to spoken language.

    Open book

    To develop this skill:

    • Help your child learn how to hold a book correctly.
    • As you read books together, emphasize the fact that you’re reading from front to back and from left to right. Let your child turn the pages.
    • As your child helps you in the kitchen, point out the names on the food boxes and cans and the ingredients as you read your recipe.
    • Point out and read road signs and store signs as you travel in the car.
  2. Letter Knowledge

    Letter knowledge enables a child to recognize the letters of the alphabet and to know the names and sounds of each.

    Friendly letter A

    To develop this skill:

  3. Phonological Awareness

    It’s a big term, but it’s really quite basic. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify the various sounds in spoken words.

    Dog with perked ear

    To develop this skill:

    • Read lots of nursery rhymes and rhyming picture books together. Encourage your child to anticipate rhyme as you read together.
    • Play clapping and rhyming games like Miss Mary Mack and Pat-a-Cake.
    • Sing silly songs by changing the first sound in some of the words. For example, sing, “Bingle bells, bingle bells, bingle all the bay,” or “If you’re chappy and you chow it, chap your chands.”
    • Play games that encourage children to identify words that begin with a specific letter sound. For example, say, “I spy with my little eye a color that starts with /r/.”
  4. Listening Comprehension

    Listening comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of words heard and to relate to them in some way. A child with good listening comprehension has a wide vocabulary and a growing understanding of the world around him.

    To develop this skill:

    • Read aloud to your children daily. Read books that are in line with your child’s interests so he begins to realize that there is a benefit to learning to read.
    • Encourage even young children to interact with books.
    • Attend story time at the library.
    • Let your child see you enjoying books.
    • Make read-aloud time an enjoyable shared time. Here are some picture book lists to get you started.
  5. Motivation to Read

    Motivation to read is a child’s eagerness and willingness to read.

    Smiling cartoon boy

    To encourage your child:

    • Read both fiction and nonfiction books to your child.
    • As you read, ask open-ended questions. For example, ask “What do you think is going to happen when we turn the page?” or “Why did the boy go outside?”
    • Use everyday life experiences to build your child’s vocabulary.
    • Encourage imaginative play and storytelling.
  6. Determine if Your Child Is Ready to Read

    Have you been working to help your child develop these important pre-reading skills? If so, it’s very possible that your child is ready to begin formal reading instruction. But if you’re not sure whether your child is ready, complete this checklist to measure your child’s reading readiness:

    Download graphic for Reading Readiness Checklist - click to download

    After completing this checklist, you’ll be able to identify the pre-reading skills that your child still needs to work on. The All About Reading Pre-reading program makes it easy to fill in the gaps and get your child ready to read. Is your child already ready to read? If so, All About Reading Level 1 is the perfect starting point!

    One Final Note

    I’m a strong believer in letting kids be kids and not pushing academics too early. But I also know from extensive experience that most kids don’t develop reading readiness skills on their own. The All About Reading Pre-reading program strikes a good balance. In about 15 minutes per day (depending on your child’s attention span and abilities), this easy-to-use curriculum helps children develop all five of the Big Five Skills. The program includes crafts, rhyming and word games, alphabet charts, and lots of playful activities. And if you’ve never met Ziggy, you’re in for a treat!

    The majority of a young child’s day should be filled with play, real-life activities, and physical exploration. Add in just a touch of daily intentional instruction in these five reading readiness areas, and your child will have a huge advantage when it comes time to read.

    Do you have questions about reading readiness? Post in the comments below or contact us!

    Photo credit: Rachel Neumann

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Kelsey M Lafleur

says:

Thank you! This is a great resource for my pre k kiddo. We are doing pre-reading now and he loves it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kelsey!

Tiffany Greene

says:

This is a great way to help kids start to enjoy reading and understand it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Tiffany.

Renatus

says:

What strategy can I use to identify children’s readiness to read?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Renatus,
Students who have mastered the 5 reading readiness skills detailed in this blog post are ready to begin reading.

Liz

says:

Thank you for all the tips. We love All About Reading and All About Spelling!

Cathy

says:

Thanks for all the wonderful tips and downloads on your site. I have a special needs child who I am trying to help with reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Cathy. Please let me know if you have any questions or need help with anything.

Tiffany

says:

the letter sound app and phonogram app are such a great help with teaching the letters and helping my daughter learn to read.

Che

says:

Thank you for sharing your early education knowledge. I’m not a teacher and am assisting a four year old boy learn the alphabet and your expertise is much treasured. Oceans of joy from Cheryl and Marley

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Cheryl! It’s great to hear that you are finding our blog useful as you help this boy. If you ever need anything, please ask.

Abby

says:

I can’t wait to get started!

Kristina

says:

We started pre-reading today. My son was so excited when Ziggy came out to play. The activity was silly and made my son laugh and was very engaged even tough he’s not quite 3 yet. We look forward to the many adventures we will have learning and having fun together.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Kristina. I can just picture the laughter and smiles of joy! 😊

April Holley

says:

Trying my best to encourage my little boy to be a reader. I love reading, but until having a child and researching blogs like this I never realized how much more learning there was to reading other than I loved it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

So true, April. Reading is such a foundational skill for all other learning! One way to develop a child’s love of reading is to read aloud to them regularly, even after they begin reading themselves.

Jessica Kling

says:

We went through about 12 phonics programs before landing on AAR. I love that on top of AAR being so effective, the teacher’s manuals are so clear! Teachers can be dyslexic, too! Thanks for making this as easy as it can be!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Jessica, and it’s wonderful to hear that All About Reading has been such a great fit for you. 😊

Sophie Hussey

says:

I love teaching my daughter through this program. We both look forward to it every day. In fact, it has been pivotal in our decision to homeschool!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What a compliment, Sophie! It’s very flattering that the enjoyment you and your daughter have with All About Reading factored into your decision to homeschool. Thank you for sharing this!

Tiffany

says:

Thank you for that info. We are super excited to start this program. I have 2 struggling readers with dyslexia and I am SO ready to see them accomplish this.

Linda Largent

says:

Helpful information, especially for parents of “non-traditional” learners.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful, Linda!

Kristin

says:

Such good advice!

Janelle

says:

So excited that I found your company…it gives me hope that my struggling reader will finally move forward.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Janelle,
I’m glad that you now have hope of success! Please know that we are committed to helping you help your child as much as you need. We are available here, by email at support@allaboutlearningpress.com, or by phone at 715-477-1976. If you need anything, please just let us know!

Erin

says:

Thank you for this – I did not know that anticipating rhymes was one of the first steps!

Heidi

says:

Excited to try this curriculum!

Morgan

says:

Such great information!!!

CARLA MARTINS CARVALHO

says:

Informações muito importantes para compreendermos e realizarmos atividades correspondentes para que os alunos alcancem os objetivos.

Kristina

says:

I am excited to start this program with my son. He watches his older sister learn and he wants to learn as well. Your website has so many awesome ideas and tips. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kristina. It’s great to capture a little one’s desire to learn while still keeping it appropriate for his abilities. I’m glad our website can help you.

Mary Goosev

says:

Good info. Would like to learn tips to help a child who reverses some of the letters.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Mary,
We have a blog post on How to Solve Letter Reversals that I think you will find helpful. It details the reversals letters b and d, but the tips will apply to any letters. Let me know if you need help coming up with an analogy for other letter pairs or need further help.

Korina P

says:

This is very helpful for my kindergartener. She is struggling with phonemic awareness and I think using these skills and the checklist provided will help me teach her during this time of home learning.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful fo you, Korina. If you haven’t seen it already, we have an entire blog post dedicated to Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness that includes printables and activities for learning these skills.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Edith Allen

says:

I am so excited to try this on my great- grand son as they day care is closed.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Edith,
Our blog is very full of games, crafts, healthy snack recipes, and other activities for helping little ones be ready for having success with reading and spelling. Check out our Preschool Archives and our Free Resources!

And if there is something specific you are looking for or have questions, just ask!

Radhika

says:

Really nice ..I want a activities and worksheets for English Readiness programme for grade 1:to grade 7

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Radhika,
We have numerous resources for a reading and spelling for a wide range of ages and grades. Check out this recent blog post that brings so many of them into on place. Kids Stuck Inside? Check Out Our FREE Boredom Busters!

Tricia

says:

My 2-yr-old thinks he’s ready to start. (He’s not.) He loves it when I let him have leftover cards from his big sisters’ packets and anything with letters or letter sounds is an instant favorite. But the preschool level is on my long-term wish list for a couple years down the road.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love that your little one is so eager, Tricia!

Have you seen our How to Teach the Alphabet to Preschoolers blog post? While your 2-year-old isn’t ready to start, there are letter printables and activities on that post that he may have fun playing with.

Tricia

says:

Wow! I hadn’t seen that one, but I just checked it out. Building blocks like duplos are another of his favorites, and he’d love a set of fabric letters. (And his 9-yr-old sister would love to help make them 3 dimensional with her sewing machine!) I’m going to need to bookmark the post to keep referring to throughout the next year or so. He just turned 2 last month, so a lot of the ideas he’s still growing into.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you found something useful there, Tricia! 😊

Ramonda Ehrhardt

says:

Very well done. Easy for parents to understand and use.

Kelly Thompson

says:

These points are super important and really helpful.

Jill Mansfield

says:

These are such great tips and ideas.

Sarah

says:

So important!

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