Long before children can read books, they need to master key skills that will help them make sense of all those black squiggles on the page. The National Institute for Literacy has identified a number of building blocks that prepare children for reading. The key components of reading readiness include:
1. Familiarity with print and books: It's important for your child to know that people read words, not pictures, and that the words she sees in print are related to the words she speaks and hears.
- Recognizing print in everyday life, on cereal boxes, street signs, and more
- Holding a book, turning the pages, and pretending to read
- Asking questions and making comments that show she understands what you read to her
2. Letter recognition: The more letters your child is able to instantly recognize and name by the time he starts kindergarten, the quicker he'll be able to focus his attention on other tasks such as the sounds associated with each letter.
- Singing the ABC song
- Recognizing the shape of letters
- Starting to learn the sounds of letters: "B" makes the "buh" sound
3. Sounds of speech: Technically called "phonological awareness," this is the ability to discern the sounds in words. Word play is key to phonological awareness because it entails listening to the way words sound and recognizing how they change.
- Identifying letters and realizing that they represent the segments of her own speech
- Understanding that "dog" does not rhyme with "cat"
- Clapping out syllables in familiar and unfamiliar words — cow/boy, ro/de/o
4. Phonemic awareness: Before children learn to read print, they need to understand that words are made up of speech sounds, technically called phonemes. The 44 phonemes in the English language are the smallest parts of sound in a spoken word that make a difference in the word's meaning.
- Naming several words that begin with the same sound — bat, boy, and bell
- Replacing one sound with another — replace the first sound in pig with /d/ to make dig.