Your Preschooler Is 'Reading' — But Has Just Memorized the Words. Now What?

Capitalize on your child's newfound love of "reading" books.
Feb 06, 2019



Your Preschooler Is 'Reading' — But Has Just Memorized the Words. Now What?

Feb 06, 2019

"Mommy, mommy, I can read this book. Listen to me!" 

It's music to a parent's ears. As our little one picks up a book we've read aloud 249 times this year and begins to "read" Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. while her eyes stay laser-focused on you, we realize that our little darling has memorized the words.

It's a common phase and a sign that our kids are ready to take the next step on their reading journey.

First, I like to make a big deal out of it. Name what you see your kids doing ("That's so great that you can read to mommy!") and point out that smart readers exhibit those same behaviors.

If a child has memorized the words and can "read" them back to you, that means your read-aloud routine is paying off, and your child is soaking in lots of rich language. Keep it up!  These preschool books will help you find some more read-alouds to enjoy.

Now, here are a few next steps to keep your child's interest in reading at an all-time high:

1. Teach the Concept of a Word

Help your preschooler learn that each spoken word can be matched to a printed word. We also want our little ones to notice that each word is separate, and words are separated by spaces.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a line from a memorized book and write it nice and big on a piece of paper. Underneath each word color a dot or place a sticker. Now, model how to point to each dot as you say one word at a time. Have your child point to each dot as they "read" the memorized text.  Here's an example from Chicka Chicka Boom Boom:


Eventually, when your child is learning to read on his own, this exercise will help him track words as he sounds them out.  You can also take it a step further and have your child point out a short word and a long word in the sentence.

2. Try These Language Building Tips

Reading aloud and talking with our kids are two of the most important things we can do to help fill that language tank. The more familiar kids are with words and language, the easier it will be to actually read the words. Try these nine fun and simple ideas for building language skills—including baking together, and sharing photos and stories, and more!

You can also play these oral word games to strengthen phonological awareness. A strong sense of phonological awareness is a big part of being ready to decode words.

  • Rhyme Time: Say two words and ask your child if they rhyme. For example, "Do bat and cat rhyme?" As your child gets better at recognizing rhymes, he can start to generate his own.
  • Clap With Me: Announce a word and clap the word parts together. The word dinosaur would get three claps: –di–no–saur.  Kids love to do this for names of friends and family.
  • Name My Sound: Say a word and have your child identify the beginning sound. For example, "What sound do you hear at the beginning of coconut?" Your child would respond with /c/.

3. Reinforce Letters and Sounds

To truly read the words on a page, kids need to have a good understanding of the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that represent those letters.

There are lots of playful ways to help kids learn those letters and sounds from completing puzzles to enjoying ABC books. Lots and lots of repetition is the key for nailing down those letters and sounds.

If your child is showing an interest in reading, has a strong sense of phonological awareness, and knows many of her letters and sounds, she may be ready to start decoding words and begin that amazing journey of learning to read.

Connect with Jodie at her site Growing Book by Book.

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