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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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Joy

says:

My son is just about ready to start his journey to reading…and I’m so excited!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It is exciting, Joy!

Chisom esther

says:

Please am a teacher in crech I don’t know we’re to start from scheme of work

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy to help if you have specific questions. However, this blog post is an excellent place to start. Students that have mastered these reading readiness skills have more ease and success with learning to read.

Kelsey Cameron

says:

If a child completes the pre-reading program successfully, will she have the skills to begin Reading 1? This seems obvious, I guess, but when I looked at the test for readiness for Reading 1, I was surprised by the reading test since pre-reading seems to be just letter/letter sounds…

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelsey,
All the skills covered in the readiness test for All About Reading Level 1 are taught in the Pre-reading Level. Students that complete the Pre-reading Level will be ready for Level 1.

The Letter Knowledge skills may be more obvious with the focus on letter crafts and such in the Pre-reading Level, but the other skills are addressed as well.

When you read The Zigzag Zebra and Lizard Lou books (included in the Pre-reading Level) aloud, as well as when you do additional read-aloud time as scheduled in Teacher’s Manual, students develop Print Awareness, Motivation to Read, and Listening Comprehension.

The “Language Exploration” section of the Pre-reading Level lessons is all about Phonological Awareness, as well as some Listening Comprehension as well. These activities are carefully designed to incrementally increase in difficulty you move through the Pre-reading Level.

Take a look at the sample lessons for the Pre-reading Level to get a full picture of what each lesson includes and how all the reading readiness skills are addressed. You’ll find the samples here.

I hope this clears things up for you. Let me know if you have additional questions.

Anjali Chopra

says:

Hi ,
Thanks for these wonderful resources.I have a few queries-
1) Schools in India mostly follow jolly phonics.So if I followed this method for my kids ,would it not confuse them ?
2) How and when do we introduce All about Spelling-
a)After completing all about reading programme
b) Both to be done at different times of the day
c) Or introduce the spelling programme after completing a particular reading level
3)Approximately,at what age should we begin the pre-reading programme- Children in India begin playschool at 1.5 -2 years and formal preschools schools at 3+.So they are taught to identify the alphabets by 1.5 and learn the phonics simultaneously between 1.5 to 3.5 years

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good questions, Anjali.

For question 1:
Do you plan to use All About Reading and All About Spelling at home while your kids are still attending school elsewhere? If so, then there may be some times when your kids tell you, “That’s not what we learned at school.”

However, the ways All About Reading (AAR) and All About Spelling (AAS) differ from Jolly Phonics will be that Jolly Phonics skims over things or provides less instruction than AAR and AAS. For example, as I mentioned before, Jolly Phonics requires words like she, he, be, and we to be memorized. AAR and AAS teach children the phonics rules and patterns so that children can easily read and spell these words without having to memorize them.

One area that AAR and AAS may have more confusion is that they are written for American English. We have suggested adaptations for those that spell and pronounce words more closely to British English, but the flashcards and stories and so on will all have American spellings. Children tend to adapt easily to reading the differences between the two, and you will just require them to use the British spellings. I can provide you with documents that discuss the adaptations for British English if you like.

For question 2:
We recommend starting All About Spelling Level 1 when a student has finished All About Reading Level 1 or the equivalent reading level. Then your student will work separately in both All About Spelling and All About Reading each day, moving at their own pace in each. Most children move ahead and reading and we do not want to hold them back while they work on spelling. We have more information about this in our Right Time to Start Spelling blog post.

For question 3:
We have a Readiness Checklist to help you determine if your child is ready to begin the Pre-reading Level. Most children are ready for it at about age 4, give or take. We have had children as young as 2 complete it successfully, and some children as old as 6 or 7 have benefited from it.

Please note that the Pre-reading Level teaches far more than just letters and letter sounds. The Pre-reading Level covers all five of the reading readiness skills necessary for reading success. Learning the letters and their sounds is important, of course, but too often students that know letter sounds well still have trouble learning to read because they have not mastered phonological awareness skills. Our Reading Readiness: The Top 5 Skills blog post has more information about this.

I hope this clears some things up for you. Let me know if you have additional questions.

Hannah

says:

This is great!! My almost 5 year old really just has phonological awareness left to connect the dots. My goal is to work that out by the end of the summer!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It sounds like your 5-year-old is doing well, Hannah! Our Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness blog post has fun activities to print for practicing these skills. But if you need additional ideas, just ask. We’re always happy to help!

Erin Knott

says:

I love how these big five reading skills are described! Nice to have concrete examples of what reading readiness looks like.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Erin!

Jacqueline J. Esteron

says:

Thank you for this article! It is very helpful to me as I will teach a 5-year old to start reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jacqueline! I’m glad this will be helpful for you.

NJ

says:

I am worried to send my child to school he is 6 years old I haven’t been on my game on teaching him to read I got him learning his letters now am afraid that he’s not ready that he’s s way behind on academics to other kids I don’t like to compare kids to other kids but in school and teachers this is what it come down to . I love that you post everything to the break down and am just feeling like am such the worst for my children. I don’t know at this time to let him go to school or just get him caught up and then send him to school.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Once your child has mastered these reading readiness skills and you can check off everything in the checklist here, he is ready to begin learning to read. All About Reading level 1 makes Reading Easy to Teach and fun to learn.

Please let me know if you have questions or if I can help you with anything.

Cess Hayashi

says:

Thank you for this article. I’m excited to find out more about the All About Reading Pre-reading program and meeting Ziggy!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have questions, Cess, or need help with placement or anything else.

T J

says:

Do you have this available in Spanish? If so, please send me how to find it and download it.
Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry, no, TJ. We don’t have any of our materials available in Spanish. We are focused on taking the struggle out of learning to read and spell English.

;Maria Cristina Solia

says:

can you help me for my child. he is 6 years old, i will be happy if you can give me some books or worsheet for the reading

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Maria,
We have many printables for reading on our website. You could start with Reading Readiness: The Top 5 Skills on this page to help your child practice the skills necessary for reading success. Then move on to How to Teach Phonograms, as learning the phonograms of English are essential for the ability to read. From there, your child would be ready for Helping Kids Sound Out Words, using what he learned about phonograms to be able to read words.

Temi

says:

Thank you so much Robin. I have looked through the link and downloaded those fun materials. I also got some of the books you recommended via Amazon. Looking forward to start using them with her.
I really appreciate your response

Temi

says:

Thank you so much. I trust this will help my kid. Please, at what age should a child be able to recognize all the alphabets. I don’t know if I’m pushing my 3 year old too hard.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Temi,
Most 3-year-olds don’t know the alphabet yet. Most students master the alphabet around age 5. However, it’s not too early to help your child learn letters, as long as you keep it fun and playful. Check out our How to Teach the Alphabet to Preschoolers for lots of fun ideas and printable activities.

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!