4 Telltale Signs Your Preschooler Is Ready to Read

Here’s how to know when your future reader has reached important milestones.
By Kelsey Kloss
Jan 14, 2019

Ages

3-5

4 Telltale Signs Your Preschooler Is Ready to Read

Jan 14, 2019

Is she going to be a good reader? Does he understand that these words mean something?

If these thoughts sound familiar, not to worry — you’re not the only parent who has wondered. Before children start to read books, it’s important for them to master a few key skills that will help them make sense of all those words on the page (remember, while you see letters, right now they only see little black squiggles!). Work on reaching these milestones established by the National Institute for Literacy with your child, and you’ll have a confident bookworm on your hands in no time. 

Milestone 1: They recognize all types of print.

Show your child that people read words, not pictures, by drawing attention to the many places you can find text. Munching on cereal for breakfast? Read the words on the box, and explain how they tell you if it’s your favorite flavor. Driving to the store? Point at street signs and mention how helpful they are in helping you get to your destination. Soon, your child will understand that the words she sees in print are related to the words she speaks and hears.

Your child has reached this milestone if she:

  • Recognizes print in everyday life
  • Holds a book, turns pages, and pretends to read
  • Asks questions or makes comments that show she understands what you read to her

Book pick: Penguins Love Their ABC’S — Teach your child how fun it can be to look for letters in unexpected places! This lovable tale follows six adorable penguins who play a snowy hide-and-seek game to find all the letters of the alphabet.     

Milestone 2: They’ve mastered the alphabet.

Once your child recognizes and names letters, he can start focusing his attention on next-level tasks that will help him learn to read, like pinpointing the sounds associated with each letter. Your goal: Help him learn as many letters as possible by the time he starts kindergarten.

Your child has reached this milestone if he:

  • Can sing the ABC song
  • Recognize the shape of letters
  • Is starting to learn the sounds of letters, like that “B” makes the “buh” sound

Book pick: Scholastic Early Learners: Trace, Lift, and Learn: ABC123 — Make learning the alphabet feel like play with this hands-on book, which provides indented finger grooves for letter tracing and interactive lift-the-flap features.

Milestone 3: They have a knack for the sound of speech.

The fancy term for this is “phonological awareness.” In plain English, that means your little one can discern certain sounds in words, an important foundation for reading skills. She might understand that some words repeat sounds (think a tongue twister like “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”) or that other words rhyme (like “cat” and “rat”).

Your child has reached this milestone if she:

  • Notices sound repetition in nursery rhymes or certain stories
  • Understands that "dog" does not rhyme with "cat"
  • Can clap out syllables in familiar and unfamiliar words — cow/boy, ro/de/o

Book pick: Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young — Improve your child’s phonological awareness by exposing them to a world of rhymes! This child-friendly anthology showcases more than 200 short poems that are perfect for little learners.

Milestone 4: They can break words apart into specific sounds.

This skill is called “phonemic awareness,” and it’s usually one of the last phonological skills (described above) your child develops. If he can break apart the word “bird” into sounds “b-ir-d,” or can say the word “bird” after hearing each sound individually, he has fine-tuned phonemic awareness. These skills help children understand the connection between written letters and words and the sounds we say out loud.

Your child has reached this milestone if he:

  • Can name several words that begin with the same sound, like “bat,” “boy,” and “bell”
  • Can replace one sound with another, such as swapping out the first sound in “pig” with a “d” to make “dig”

Book pick: Dr. Seuss ABC Book and CD — This visual and auditory introduction to the alphabet is filled with zany alliterations like “a lazy lion licking a lollipop” and “an ostrich oiling an orange owl” to help build your child’s phonemic awareness skills.

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