Before reading: Pre literacy skills
When we think of learning to read, we tend to think of our children being taught the alphabet and learning to sound out letters to form words. Whilst this is part of learning to read, to be succesful at this point, children need to already have certain skills under their command. We call these skills pre literacy skills.
The exciting thing about pre literacy skills is that they can start to develop at any age! Even your baby under the age of one can start to develop pre literacy skills.
What are pre literacy skills?
Well, it’s quite a fancy word for soe very simple things. There are a number of pre literacy skills, but I’m going to just focus on just four things today:
Phonological awareness is an extremely important pre literacy skill. It is the ability to listen to and manipulate the sounds that a word is made up of. For example, to understand that the word dog consists of three sounds, d, o and g. It’s easy to understand why this is so important to have before a child starts to read!
Phonological awareness doesn’t start so complicated, though. Your 2 or 3 year old won’t be able to tell you what sounds are in a word, but might enjoy singing songs with rhyming words, reading stories, and listening to nursery rhymes.
Your 3 to 5 year old may start to match words that rhyme, recognize words that have the same first sounds (alliteration) and start to combine words that have one syllable to make a bigger word (cup & cake will become cupcake, hot & dog becomes hotdog).
After 5 years, your child will start to understand the concept that I spoke of earlier, that dog has 3 sounds in it. If you tell your child the three sounds, he may be able to put them together (blend) and tell you what the word was!
Take a look at this graph (Phonological Awareness Development) to see more specific ages where you can start to expect to see these skills develop.
Print awareness means the understanding that written words have meaning and understanding how print works. For example, that we read from left to right and start at the top of the page when reading English. This understanding doesn’t just develop out of nowhere, but comes from being exposed to print! In households where there are no books and very little exposure to print, children have to start their education without this very important skill!
Interest and motivation
Whilst interest and motivation don’t sound like things that are skills, they are extremely important. A child who isn’t interested in books is probably not going to be able to reach the reading ability that he could have reached if he had had the motivation.
Alphabet knowledge is something that most parents are quite familiar with, but I’m putting it last on my list. This is because whilst it’s an important pre literacy skill, many people think of it as the only pre literacy skill. And as you can see above, it definitely isn’t!
How do you develop pre literacy skills?
One of the best ways to develop pre literacy skills is through shared reading! Make this a fun time, so that your child is exposed to reading as a pleasurable activity. Try to read aloud to your child for about 15 minutes every day (or more!).
Point to words as you read to them. Make sure to show them the cover and talk about what the book is going to be about before starting! Close the book when you’re finished and tell them that it’s the end of the story.
Place emphasis on rhyming words, and make up more! You can also think of words that rhyme with your child’s name. Get them to make up words that rhyme with your name or their siblings’ names!
Talk about the sounds in words. For example, in the book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, talk about how the first few sounds in the word caterpillar is the same as in cat. Talk about other words that start with the sound /c/.
Look out for print in your environment! Show your child the name of cereal on the cereal box, the M for MacDonalds, the Stop on the traffic signs. Show them writing whilst grocery shoppings and outings!
Let me know what your favourite book is for shared reading, I’d love to hear!