encourage reading in pre-readers

15 Ways to Encourage Reading in Pre-Readers

Pre-readers are children who understand the concept of reading but don’t know how to read yet. Toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners are often pre-readers. Even if they haven’t learned phonics or the alphabet, they’re still experiencing an important stage of early literacy.

As a parent, you play a major role in nurturing your child’s literacy development and interest in reading. It doesn’t take an expert to instill more awareness, excitement, and pre-reading knowledge. There are ways you can do this with your child at home!

While learning to read effectively requires proven teaching methods, pre-reading begins with kids’ family interactions. To make the most of these interactions with your child, here are 15 simple and fun practices that lay the foundation for reading success.

1. Read Books Together

Read books aloud with your child every day, making it a warm, snuggly routine you both enjoy. Let your child choose a book to read and turn the pages if they want, making them feel engaged and included in the act of reading.

2. Point Out Environmental Print

There are words, signs, logos, and letters all around your environment. Point out words on signs, snack labels, menus, toys— anything age-appropriate and interesting you both encounter. This is an important print awareness concept called environmental print, which you can strengthen with everyday practice. 

3. Sing Songs and Nursery Rhymes Together 

Nursery rhymes and children’s songs build phonological awareness— another important concept that pre-readers develop. Songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Apples and Bananas,” and “1, 2, Buckle My Shoe” are timeless for a reason. They entertain children while satisfying phonemic practices like rhyming, syllable awareness, and sound discrimination which all support reading readiness. 

4. Incorporate Letters in Play

Use letters and numbers in daily playtime. Alphabet fridge magnets are popular because they’re tactile, easy to reach, and allow for many different activities. Finger-tracing letters on a board or in the sand is another hands-on activity that builds letter familiarization. Other ideas include alphabet puzzles, children’s books with tactile letters, and alphabet learning apps

5. Build a Kid-Friendly Library at Home

You don’t need to renovate anything to start a home library. It can be a small, dedicated bookshelf in the corner of your child’s bedroom, a vertical stack of books on the floor, or a row of books set up along the entertainment system. Make the books visible and easily accessible to your child. 

If you don’t have many children’s books or none seem to interest your child, shop for affordable titles at used bookstores, local Friends of the Library groups, church libraries, or online. Swap out books yearly or seasonally while keeping your child’s favorites.

6. Let Your Child Pretend to Read and Write

Many children pretend to read or write when in the pre-reading stage. Your child might babble while turning pages in a book, make up silly stories for the book you’re reading together, or scribble “notes” on paper during imaginative play. These are healthy behaviors that indicate early literacy awareness. Let them play pretend. Praise them for their interest in reading.

7. Talk About New Words and Concepts

As your child builds their vocabulary, talk about new words and concepts they encounter. Help them refer to a children’s dictionary if they ask what a word means. Use new words in context throughout daily conversations with them. Entertain interesting words, names, stories, and literacy ideas that strengthen their skill level.

8. Make Reading Fun and Engaging 

Use props, puppets, and silly voices to enhance the reading experience with your child. They’re more likely to feel engaged with enthusiastic storytelling than with monotone, lecture-style reading. Initiate fun call-and-response reading with their favorite books or with special instruction.

9. Visit the Library Together 

Take your child to the library and let them pick out their books. Attend children’s reading events with them and consider joining a kids’ club that focuses on your child’s favorite topic. Make reading a playful, explorative bonding experience instead of a chore.

10. Discuss Stories After Reading

Have a fun dialogue with your child after reading a book. Ask them about their favorite characters and which parts of the story they liked/disliked. Think of ways the story can relate to something your child knows in real life. Have them retell important parts of the story, giving words of praise when they do. This builds their reading comprehension.

11. Read by Example

You can set a good example by reading books for your own enjoyment. Encourage family reading time and leave books in sight so they become a part of daily life. Modeling provided by parents may provide an impetus for their children’s interest in reading. It’s also helpful to model proper fluency to your child when reading aloud. Express accurate emotions, speak smoothly, and emphasize correct pronunciation. 

12. Embrace Bilingual Options

If your family speaks multiple languages or your child is learning an additional language, welcome bilingual print items. Buy books in each language so you can rotate between the two, encouraging early literacy in both. 

13. Indulge in Story Repetition 

If your child has a favorite storybook, they might ask you to read it again and again. View this as a good sign of reading interest. Allow story repetition, even if it’s in the same sitting. While it might lose your interest after a while, re-reading the books your child loves allows them to learn something new each time. It also creates special memories for both of you.

14. Allow Time for Questions and Pauses When Reading

Accept pauses during reading time to leave room for your child’s questions and comments about the book. Feed their curiosity as the two of you progress through the story. Tell your child when they make a good point, ask a good question, or spot something the two of you hadn’t noticed before. 

15. Brainstorm What the Story is About

Whenever your child gets a new book, take time together to interact with the title, front cover, back cover, and inside illustrations. Before reading, ask your child what they think the story will be about. Make it fun and take turns guessing what you think might happen in the book. This helps them practice brainstorming, making predictions, forming sentences, and reading curiosity.

Motivate Your Pre-Reader With Reading.com Activities

Doing a few of these pre-reading activities every day helps your child build strong foundations for reading. Keep these practices interactive and playful during this critical window for early literacy development. 

Supplement your child’s pre-reading development by using fun, engaging reading apps with them. The personalized story lessons from Reading.com are perfect for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Try it out for free when you download the Reading.com app today!

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