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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

    reading readiness pinterest graphic
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Leave a Comment

Carrie Farris

says:

Great information on how to get started with my little guy!

Maya

says:

I am not fan of an early academic teaching either. But my son (age 4) is curious and shows interest in reading and numbers, so we read/count a lot. I was already practicing some of the skills listed above. Many useful tips. Thank you!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Maya,
Little ones are so naturally curious about the world and things in it! Following this curiosity can be a great learning method. Keep up the wonderful work, Mom!

desiree

says:

my daughter is taking the grandson out of school and home school him he is in 5th grade but read at a 1st grade level and told her keep getting check i buy book and he love them even he can not read

Shelby Jones

says:

Nice list! This has shown me what I’ve been doing right and also the things I need to start working on with my preschooler. Thank you!

Melissa J.

says:

Very helpful with having a preschooler starting this year, thanks!

Tatiana

says:

Of the big 5, motivation can be the most difficult. If a student isn’t interested, it is so much harder to reach them!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Yes, you are probably right, Tatiana. It is one of the reasons why we keep our lessons short, just 20 minutes a day, and mix in fun activities like these and highly appealing but 100% decodable stories. It keeps motivation high!

Rebekah

says:

Thank you. I have four children the older ones love to read, but spent many years struggling to get there. My younger ones I was a bit better with in working with them. I love to read with all my children though.
Thank you for this article I agree with all of it. There are things I do Ned to work better on.
Thank you.

michelle kapusta

says:

I wish I had known about this program 10 years ago…my son is 6th grade and is struggling…because he did not have a good foundation. Public school failed him. And the fact that I, as his parent, didn’t know his struggles…I feel like I’ve failed him as well.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Michelle,
It isn’t too late. This blog post, Real Moms, Real Kids: How AAS Saved My Dyslexic Son, may encourage you. Also, check out Marie’s story. She was told that her son would never read and that they should prepare him for a life of illiteracy! That did not happen.

Please let me know if you would like help with placement, have any questions or concerns, or if we can help in any other way.

Jennie

says:

I am about to start homeschooling my oldest and have 2 more after him lined up. This will be very helpful to remember. I have to admit that I’m a little unsure of how to get everything they need in.

Beverly Jones

says:

Please continue sharing fantastic tips like these. I totally agree. I will share this. Thanks!

Ashley Moore

says:

Child number 3 is getting close to being reading ready here! For some reason left to right has been our biggest issue. He wants to write one line left to right and the next right to left! I cannot even imagine reading that way!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ashley,
Having right to left on one line, then left to right (with backwards letters) on the next was common in Ancient Greece. It is called “Boustrophedon” which is Greek for “ox-turning”, referring to how an ox plowed a field one way then came back in the opposite direction.

Anyway, I think if we always read that way we would get used to it, but the always left to right (in English anyway, Hebrew and other languages always go right to left) is probably much less confusing.

Callie R.

says:

Thanks for sharing!

Kirsten Riley

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Sara V

says:

Great tips, thank you!

Juill

says:

Thanks for the post.

Chelsey

says:

Great ideas! And thanks for including the placement test.

I had no idea yall had a blog!! This is very helpful. Your have the best reading program out there.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Cassandra! (And we post a new article blog post every Monday, and some weeks we post a second post later in the week that reviews books or has fun activities.)

Erin Coates

says:

Thank you for this, we all All About Reading/Spellling!

Amanda

says:

Great ideas! Thank you!!!

Sherry

says:

This article was a great review and helped me understand why certain activities are beneficial. I will be referring back to it for a reminder of things to do.

Carie

says:

My son has most of the pre-reading skills. Would it be unwise to begin at level 1?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Carie,
Which of the Pre-reading skills is he missing? If you look at the AAR 1 Placement Test, you can see what skills a child needs to have before beginning. You do not have to use our Pre-reading level in order to build up his skills in those areas, but he should know them before beginning AAR 1 for the best chance of success.

Often, phonological awareness is the area young students are most likely to not have mastered. Many preschool programs cover the other Big Five Skills thoroughly, but leave phonological awareness off. If that is the case with your son, this article has many ideas on how you can teach and practice these skills without a curriculum.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

teresa

says:

Your pre-reading program really helped prepare my son to jump into level 1 and fly.
Thanks so much!

Jamie

says:

Very good ideas! Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to try it with my son!

Mrs

says:

Been very interested in purchasing this curriculum and would enjoy trying it out.

Rita Ippolito

says:

Your books and delightful illustrations have been a reading pleasure for my granddaughter. Your program for reading is superb!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Rita!

Christina Hostetler

says:

Getting ready to purchase Level 1 and I’m considering Prereading, the samples are adorable!

Kathy Garwood

says:

Wish I had this when my daughter was learning to read!

Dena Laney

says:

My 4 1/2 year old memorizes the words from the stories she likes but doesn’t show much interest in actually reading yet. Any suggestions on how to spark her interest in actually learning to sound out words with me?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Dena,
First, I recommend time. You hear of preschoolers reading all the time, but in truth that is the exception. Being able to blend sounds into words is hard work that most children are simply not ready for until they are older.

Secondly, how does she do with phonological awareness skills? Children that are still struggling to hear rhyme and identify the first or last sound in words will find blending sounds into words to be unimaginably complex.

To encourage her to be more interested in the sounds of words, play lots of sound games. Try saying words that rhyme with her name (even nonsense words). Can she come up with more rhyming words? Can she think of words that start as the same sound as her name? How about the last sound? Only when these activities are easy should you then move to slowly saying the sounds of a word (all orally, not print words yet). If you say “/c/-/a/-/t/”, can she guess what the word is? Only when this game is also easy do you finally move to letter magnets or tiles and ask her to blend the sounds into a word.

I hope this gives you some ideas. All About Reading Pre-reading level works on all things things in a fun and playful way, with little to no planning needed on your part. However, you can work on these skills independently too.

Jill

says:

Thanks for the opportunity!

Kelly M

says:

I greatly appreciate all of your efforts to promote literacy! More people need to know about the value of reading readiness.

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