The Early Reading Years
The language skills that children begin to learn right from birth provide the foundations for learning to read.
Kids as young as 2 and 3 years old can master reading basic words like ‘cat’ and ‘dog’ so don’t let age be a barrier for your child. Engaging them in basic reading games can accelerate children’s reading abilities and improve the trajectory of their future learning exponentially.
Expected developmental milestones of children aged 2-4 can include:
- Enjoying listening to books being read aloud
- Demonstrating an understanding that written text conveys meaning
- Identifying some letters of the alphabet and associating sounds with particular letters
- Recognizing familiar signs and labels in their environments
- Attempting to read and write text
The early learning years before a child starts school are key to creating a strong foundation for later reading which significantly impacts their learning and future success.
The first teacher a child has is a parent. So what we do with our children at this young age, lays the foundation for our children to value being literate, giving them motivation to learn to read and write, and encouraging them to develop a disposition for lifelong learning. Playing fun and stimulating reading games are a beneficial and positive way to begin to foster your child’s engagement in early literacy learning.
According to the International Literacy Association, ‘the ability to read, write, and communicate connects people to one another and empowers them to achieve things they never thought possible.’ What better gift could we hope to give our children than ensuring they are fully literate and therefore able to competently and confidently pursue their dreams, achieve their goals and live life to their full potential?
Reading games provide developmentally appropriate, interactive and engaging learning experiences which will give your child a head-start to their education.
Read Books to Foster a Love of Reading
Reading books with your children is the most obvious place to start to develop a love of reading. This invaluable bonding experience is something parents can do every day. Research compiled by the National Association for the Education of Young Children has shown that increasing the volume of children’s experiences with books is directly correlated with accelerated growth in reading competence.
Already a well-known fact, the latest findings by the Pediatric Academic Societies continues to support the notion that ‘reading to young children, beginning even in early infancy, has a lasting effect on language, literacy and early reading skills.’
Listening to texts being read aloud models effective reading skills such as fluency and expression, as well as helps to increase a child’s vocabulary and develop word knowledge to later assist with comprehension.
By making reading fun, engaging and interactive, and modeling behaviors which actively demonstrate our own values about the importance of being literate, as parents we have a privileged opportunity to establish reading as a positive experience for our children, and as a result foster their enthusiasm and motivation for future learning.
Tips for Reading Books to 2-4 Year Olds
- Choose engaging books that your toddler can connect to and identify with, such as books about everyday experiences, familiar things and places that they like and enjoy, or books with flaps or different textures to touch
- Encourage your toddler to physically engage with texts by getting them to turn the page, point to pictures, lift flaps, or to make movements and sounds
- Keep reading short and simple. As toddlers have a limited attention span and enjoy being active, they might move about during reading, skip back and forth between pages, or ask for repeated readings, so understand that you might not finish every book you start
- Read with expression, use different voices, bring out your inner actor and bring life to stories in your child’s imagination
- Talk about reading – talk about the pictures, retell the story, ask what your child liked about the book, help them to connect the text to their own lives and experiences, share your own experiences and connections to the story
- Draw your child’s attention to the text by pointing to the words as you read to develop an awareness of fluency and pace.
- Develop your child’s understanding of the way text conveys meaning by reinforcing key vocabulary with repetition, or help your child to make associations between objects and words through the use of visual cues
Use Flashcards to Develop Early Reading Skills
Flashcards show pictures of objects and sometimes include written words, and can promote language development by building vocabulary and helping early readers to understand that words convey meaning.
Flashcards are particularly useful in supporting visual learners and assist beginner readers to associate familiar objects with words. However, it is important to use flashcards to compliment learning in real life contexts. Help your child to transfer their word recognition skills, from being able to name a picture of a car on a flashcard, and encourage them to apply their knowledge in their everyday experiences to identify an actual car in the real world.
Whilst repetition is critical in developing foundational reading skills and is a key characteristic in the use of flashcards, parents need to remember that the aim at this stage of reading development is to foster an enjoyment of reading by making the experience positive and engaging.
Tips for Using Flashcards with 2-4 Year Olds
- Be mindful of your toddlers limited attention span and use flashcards appropriately
- Use flashcards that are developmentally appropriate and relevant to real life experiences and contexts
- Be creative and imaginative and incorporate games with the use of flashcards, such as presenting a group of objects and have your little learner match the associated flashcard, or encourage your child to group flashcards according to particular sounds or other categories
- Combine the use of flashcards with physical activity such as taking a step forward with every correct flashcard identified to get from one place to another
Best Reading Games for 2-4 Year Olds
We’ve consulted early learning experts to hunt down some of the best reading games around for 2-4 year olds. Here are some of their favorites.
Melissa & Doug
You can view all these and more at our online toy shop. Fill your cart with multiple toys, then we’ll send your whole cart to Amazon.com to checkout. Too easy!