Updated: Jun 27
Have you ever wondered if your kids are ready to learn how to read? Do you ask yourself “Are my kids too young to learn how to read? What are the signs they are ready to read?” Knowing when your kids are ready to read does not need to be a mystery.
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In this post, I will talk about what reading readiness is and why it is important. I will explore the 5 skills needed for reading readiness as well as what we can do as a teacher or parent to help our kids get ready for reading. I will also discuss the signs to look out for when deciding if your child is ready to read as well as some fun pre-reader activity ideas!
My free Phonological Awareness Pack gives you all the tools you need to help you determine if your child or class is ready to learn how to read.
What is reading readiness?
Reading readiness is the point where your child is ready to transition from a non-reader to a reader. It is important to keep in mind that each child is unique and may be ready to read at a different time from their peers of the same age. Usually, children are ready to begin learning how to read around the ages of 5 or 6 but this could be earlier or later for some children. Reading readiness also involves children being developed socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively too. Children need to be socially and emotionally developed to ensure they can relate to characters they are reading about and know how to interact with others, for example, turn-taking. It is also important that children are physically developed so they can do things such as sit comfortably when reading and turn pages. Ensuring children are cognitively developed will help with visual and auditory discrimination.
Why is reading readiness important?
Reading readiness is important because if we expose our children to books and different types of text early, we are developing a positive relationship with reading from a young age. There is a positive link between early exposure to reading and how successful children are when learning to read. Reading readiness also helps to progress children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development by developing skills such as sharing, page-turning and recognising print.
What are the 5 skills needed for reading readiness?
There are 5 skills children need when beginning their reading journey.
To explore each of these pre-reader skills in more detail, read below.
The first skill a child will need is an eagerness and willingness to read. If they do not have the motivation to read it may mean they are not quite ready to learn yet and that is ok! You will know if your child is keen to read when you spot them “reading” to themselves or if they begin to ask you to read the same story over and over again! They may begin to show an interest in text in their environment or begin to ask questions about stories you are reading them.
The next skill your child will need is listening comprehension. This means they can listen to words and relate in some way to them. Being able to follow instructions and answer questions is a good way to determine if your child has developed this skill.
Print awareness ensures that children understand that print on a page represents words and has meaning. If your child can hold a book the right way up and turn the pages correctly, they are on the right track to being ready to read. I would also check that they understand that we read a book from front to back and the text from left to right.
The next skill your child will require is letter knowledge. This means they not only recognise the letters of the alphabet but also understand that each letter makes a sound.
The last skill your child will need is phonological awareness. This skill is all about identifying and manipulating sounds and includes the following aspects: counting syllables, recognising & producing rhyme, segmenting beginning and end sounds, identifying alliteration, blending sounds, discriminating sounds and segmenting sentences.
You may find this Reading Readiness Checklist below useful! You can download the Pdf version as part of my Phonological Awareness Pack.
What is a teacher’s or parent’s role in reading readiness?
Teachers and parents can have an especially important part to play in ensuring children are ready to learn how to read. We can do this by providing experiences and activities that help develop a child’s readiness to read. These activities can be done in a classroom environment as well as at home with very few resources and are fantastic for initially introducing children to reading. I have a few suggestions you can try out below!
Print Awareness can be developed by showing your children how to hold a book correctly, this can be done easily during storytime. When reading the story, you can use your finger to trace the text as you read, from left to right. You can also let your children turn the pages (they love doing this!) Pointing out environmental text is another great way to develop children’s print awareness.
Letter knowledge can be developed by singing the alphabet song and activities that explore letter formation and letter sounds (check out some of my activity ideas later on in this post!).
Phonological awareness can be developed through reading nursery rhymes, singing songs, encouraging children to finish off rhymes and clapping games such as Pat-a-cake. Another fun way to develop this skill is to sing well-known songs such as Jingle Bells and change the initial sounds of some of the words, for example, to Bingle Bells.
Listening Comprehension can easily be developed by reading stories aloud every day to your children.
You can develop a child’s motivation to read by encouraging them to explore different types of text and by asking questions during storytime. Encouraging imaginative play and storytelling by setting up things such as reading buddies (stuffed toys children can “read” to), small world areas and role play areas will also increase children's motivation to read.
It is important to give your children a lot of positive encouragement but do not push them too hard.
What are the signs my child is ready to read?
After providing your child with the experiences and simple activities I explained above your child may begin to show signs they are ready to develop reading readiness in a more formal way. Below are some signs you may notice when your child is ready to move on in their reading journey.
They are showing an interest in reading and want to try and read themselves or be read to. They may make stories of their own.
They are retelling a story either to someone else or through role play. They may be acting out “reading” a book or be engaged with small world play.
They can read their own name or write their own name.
They can rhyme and play with words.
They can handle a book correctly.
They may notice and ask questions about print in their environment.
They understand text has meaning and may ask “what does that say?”
They can either sing or say the alphabet.
They know some or all their sounds.
They can repeat a simple text that is read to them.
Once your child has begun to display some of the signs above you may want to begin developing their reading readiness through more formal teaching activities. There are some ideas below you can try out.
How to teach Pre-reading skills to children
Below are some fun and engaging activities to further develop your children’s reading readiness. These activities can easily be incorporated into your daily classroom routine.
You can set up areas in your classroom where children can explore letters. You can set up activities that look at letter formation and use resources such as magnetic or plastic/wooden letters. You can have certain letters out and children could copy that letter formation using different materials such as dough, string, loose parts etc.
During story time ensure you ask your children questions about the story you are reading. If you are reading a rhyming book encourage your children to finish off the rhyme. You can also show pictures of events in your story and ask your children to correctly sequence the pictures.
If have a construction, role play or block area, you can encourage your children to label their models and equipment or make signs etc. You could even add real-life examples of environmental print to these areas too.
You can play rhyming games with your entire class or small groups. First show an example of words that do rhyme, for example, cat and hat. Then, show your children sets of two picture cards and ask if rhyme or not. Once your children are a little comfortable with rhyme, you can set cards out on a table and ask children to sort out all the rhyming words together in groups. You can also play pairs or snap! When your children are ready, you can explore more written rhyming activities such as matching and color the rhyming word.
A great way to introduce syllables is to ask children to clap out syllables in their names. Make sure you show them how to do this first. Then you can move onto clapping out syllables in words. This can be easily incorporated into storytime. While reading a story, pick a word then ask your children to clap/say a number of syllables. Some syllables games include picture cards where children need to match/pick the correct number of syllables. You can also play sorting/matching/snap games like the games I mentioned above for rhyming. When you think it is appropriate you can explore more paper-based syllables activities such as match the correct number of syllables and color the number of syllables.
To introduce alliteration, you can give children two words with the same initial sound, make sure you point this out. Then give your children two words and ask if they have the same initial sound. You can use picture cards for matching, sorting and snap games. You can also introduce fun tongue twisters!
Initial & end sounds
To explore initial and end sounds, you say a word then ask your children to say the initial or end sound they can hear. You can also make picture cards with a few initial sounds down the bottom, sort of like multiple-choice, and your children can pick the correct initial or end sound. They will need to know some of their sounds to do this. You can also play a variety of initial or end sounds sorting/matching/pairs/snap games. Splat is another fun game I have played with my kids. Using fly swatters, children splat the word that begins/ends with a given sound. This beginning, middle and end sound activity pack is perfect for helping your kids isolate beginning, middle & ending sounds.
Onset and rime
Exploring CVC word families is a great way to develop a child’s ability to blend and read. You can download a FREE set of my CVC Word family posters to help with that. These are part of my Phonological Awareness Pack. First, you choose a starter word, for example, cat. Then ask your children to come up with as many rhyming words as they can. This CVC word activity asks your child to add an initial sound to make a CVC word that is within the given CVC word family. They are then asked to read the CVC word then draw a picture to show the CVC word in the box.
To develop children’s encoding skills, you can ask them to practise sounding out a word. To do this, you say a word, for example, tap. Your children then sound it out and write or place the sounds that they hear.
To develop your children’s decoding skills, you can practise blending sounds together. First start with two sounds, even if it makes a nonsense word. Ask your child to look at a blend and say it. You can keep this activity interesting by changing one letter at a time.
Can a child be too young to learn to read?
This question is often a consideration when teaching young children how to read. How young, is too young to learn how to read?
All children are different. Generally, children are ready to read around the age of 5-6 but some who are as young as 4 may be ready. If we are teaching younger children how to read, we need to keep in mind that younger children have shorter attention spans and may find it tricky to concentrate for longer periods of time. This will mean that teachers and parents will need to adapt to meet the needs of younger readers. Younger readers may also not have the necessary skills mentioned earlier (social, emotional, physical and cognitive) which could lead to difficulties when learning how to read. Some feel, that teaching children to read too early is not a good idea and can lead to frustration and negative feelings towards reading.