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8 basic reading skills your child needs before starting school

27 Nov, 2023

Parents play a significant role in preparing their children for future academic success. Studies show that the single most important predictor of overall success in school was the amount children were read to as toddlers.

If your child is about to start school, now is an important time to lay the foundations for reading. Learning the basics can help your child feel excited, confident and ready to embark on their next big adventure. Here are some fun, engaging, and age-appropriate ways to help your child learn essential early reading skills:

1. Point out words and letters

Point out simple words and letters when you’re out and about. Encourage your child to repeat the sounds after you (rather than the name of the letters). For example, if you point to the letter m, emphasise the ‘mmm’ sound to help them understand the relationship between letters and sounds.

2. Expand and enrich your child’s vocabulary

Build your child’s vocabulary in a natural way by reading and talking together regularly. Make an effort to use any new words you come across, and play fun vocabulary games to help your child remember new words. Flashcards and online reading programs like ABC Reading Eggs use pictures to aid in vocabulary retention.

3. Sing nursery rhymes to build phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is an essential component of learning to read. It’s the understanding that each letter has a corresponding sound. A fun way to build your child’s phonological awareness is through reading and singing nursery rhymes, songs and poems.

4. Show your child how to hold a book properly

While reading together, invite your child to have a go at holding the book the right way up and turning the pages from left to right. Run your finger under the words as you read to help them see how the words move from left to right.

5. Talk about books you’ve read to build comprehension skills

Help your child build key comprehension skills by recalling familiar words and phrases from their favourite books and retelling short and simple stories. Your child might even be able to predict what might happen next during a story. Talk about the books you read on a daily basis.

6. Learn the letters of the alphabet (including lowercase and uppercase letters)

You can use alphabet blocks, magnets and charts that include uppercase and lowercase letters to teach your child the alphabet. While reading together, ask your child to find certain words and letters, for example “Can you find Peter’s name on the page?”, “Can you find the word ‘but’ in this sentence?” and “How many words can you find on the page that starts with the letter s?”

7. Learn some high frequency words

Sight words are words that are most frequently used and repeated in books (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we). Learning to identify the first 100 high frequency sight words will give your child around half of the words they need for reading most children’s books. These can be learned through the use of repetition, flashcards with pictures, and online reading programs like ABC Reading Eggs.

8. Read aloud every single day, and make it an enjoyable experience

This is really the best thing you can do to help prepare your child for school. Aim to read to your child for at least 15 minutes each day, and find ways to turn it into a fun and relaxed bonding experience. When your child learns to associate reading with positive memories, they will be more likely to want to read on their own in the future.

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