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Activities for Each Stage of Reading Readiness

Updated on February 21, 2014

Things you can do to build early reading skills at home

Teaching children how to read is a rewarding experience. There are several things a parent can do to build early reading skills during each stage of reading readiness.

Environmental Print Awareness

At a surprisingly young age, children are able to recognize, identify and “read” the logos, brand names, store and traffic signs around them. While they aren’t actually reading, they are attaching meaning to written words, which is an important step in reading readiness.

When driving in the car, ask your child to point out the examples of environmental print he can identify. When he asks about a new sign or logo, be sure to let him know what it says.

After clipping all of your coupons from the Sunday newspaper, let the kids “read” the coupon section. Naturally, they’ll be able to recognize their favorite brands of cereal and the names of toy stores, but you’ll be surprised by what else they recognize.

Letter Recognition

Around the time your child starts pre-school, he should be able to recognize the letters of the alphabet. You can build on environmental print awareness by pointing out that his favorite toy store starts with the letter “T”. Ask him to point to another store that also starts with the letter “T”.

Let’s go on a letter search. Give your child a highlighter and see if he can highlight every letter “M” in a magazine article. Switch colors and have him start looking for the letter “D”.

Magnetic alphabet letters have been around for years for a reason - they work. Don’t worry about your stainless steel refrigerator getting fingerprints; learning how to read is more important than your fridge. Besides, paper towels and spray cleaner is cheaper than what a reading tutor will cost you down the road.

Letter Sounds

Children start to learn letter sounds in their last year of pre-school and continue the process in kindergarten.

My favorite DVD for reading readiness is Leapfrog Letter Factory. This DVD shows a short clip for each letter of the alphabet that teaches the letter sound. The visuals of the video expand upon the letter songs used in the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letters, making it fun, entertaining and memorable. Kids have no problem remembering the letter sounds when they think of this video.

To practice letter sounds I recommend an activity that also builds fine motor skills while using a scissor and a glue stick. Give your child some old magazines and have him cut out pictures of things that make the same letter sound as “B” like baby. He can then glue all of the pictures of things that start with the letter “B” to a piece of paper.

Sight Words

Sight words are high frequency words that your child will need to learn how to recognize and read by sight. The most commonly used list is the Dolch Sight Words List, named for Edward R. Dolch who compiled a list of 220 words used most frequently in print. The original Dolch list is broken down into shorter lists so that you can use them developmentally and focus on just a few words before moving on to more. Some examples of beginning sight words are: the, to, see, like, for and here.

Flash cards are one of the best ways to learn sight words. Make a game out of it and play Sight Word Bingo. Make a small bingo board for your child – just 3 by 3 squares. Give your child the flash cards so that he can fill in each box with one of the sight words. Then collect the flash cards and read them one at a time. If your child has the sight words that you read (don’t show him the card), he can mark off that box using pennies or other small objects. Once your child has identified all of his sight words, he wins! As he gets better at this game and learns more sight words, make the Bingo board larger.

Go on a sight word hunt. Similar to the letter search activity while learning letter recognition, have your child highlight sight words found in a magazine article.

Ready for Reading

At this point, your child is ready to learn how to read. With the letter sounds and many of the sight words under his belt, it’s just a matter of combining sounding out words and using sight word recognition. Give yourself a pat on the back!

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