Reading Before School Age
Starting school is one of the most significant milestones in early childhood and the reading skills children possess when they enter the education system are fundamental to their future learning.
Research conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has found that ‘reading skill serves as the major foundational skill for all school-based learning, and without it, the chances for academic and occupational success are limited.’
Consequently, the development of reading skills for children aged between 4 and 6 years old, provides a critical window of opportunity for parents to further expand and build on, their children’s pre-existing literacy knowledge in preparation for their first years of school.
In order to develop the ability to read, children must first have an adequate grasp on the alphabetic principle, demonstrating the understanding that letters represent sounds, and know that when combined, these sounds form words.
Following this, phoneme awareness, sometimes referred to as phonological awareness (the understanding that speech can be broken up into small sounds or phonemes), and phonic awareness (an understanding of how phonemes can be represented in written text) are ‘non-negotiable beginning reading skills that all children must master in order to understand what they read and to learn from their reading’ (NICHD).
These emergent literacy skills help beginning readers to learn to hear, identify and isolate single sounds, and support the development of the skill of ‘sounding out’ as the early reader learns how to pull word sounds apart and blend them back together again. Being able to ‘sound out’ words not only assists in learning to read, but is also a valuable skill to assist in learning how to write and spell words.
Reading games provide a fun and interactive way for children to develop the emergent literacy skills necessary for them to become proficient readers and successful learners.
Read Books to Foster a Love of Reading
Support early literacy learning by choosing books that are developmentally appropriate and at the right level for your child’s reading skills which will enable them to read most of the text independently. Providing opportunities for successful reading practice promotes reading as a positive and enjoyable experience, helps to build reading confidence and fosters motivation to support learning.
At this stage of development, emerging readers start to develop print awareness and an understanding of text features such as capital letters and punctuation, headings, page numbers and table of contents for example. According to the Texas Education Agency, ‘children’s performance on print awareness tasks is a very reliable predictor of their future reading achievement‘. Therefore, exposing your beginner reader to a wide variety of text types, including non-fiction, and engaging in reading games, helps to lay the foundations for them to become successful readers.
Tips to Support Reading Development for 4-6 Year Olds
- Establish a reading routine at home that promotes the experience of reading with your child as special and valued.
- Encourage repeated readings of the same text to develop your child’s ability to read with appropriate pace, accuracy and fluency.
- When reading aloud, model reading strategies such as self-correcting or the sounding out of difficult or unfamiliar words and support your child to use these strategies as they read aloud to you.
- 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 your child questions about what they’ve just read and use questions that help them to draw inferences from the clues in the text, help them to connect the text to their own lives and experiences, share your own experiences and connections to the story.
Sight Words Reading Games
Sight words are common, high frequency words that do not need to be sounded out, that can be memorized and recognized at a glance. To quote Sightwords.com, ‘Sight words are the glue that holds sentences together’ and memorizing these words makes reading easier, faster and smoother by allowing the beginning reader to concentrate on decoding new words.
There are two categories of sight words:
- ‘Frequently Used Words’ such as it, can, the, on which make up a significant proportion of any written text and
- ‘Non-Phonetic Words’ with unnatural spellings and pronunciations that cannot be decoded phonetically, for example words such as buy and come
Early readers will be able to more easily and effectively learn and memorize sight words once they can proficiently recognize and name all of the lower case letters of the alphabet. Learning Sight Words requires lots of repetition, but it is important to make this repetition fun and entertaining and appropriate to the developmental stage of each individual child.
Sight Word games are an enjoyable and engaging way to reinforce sight word recognition and support the development of speed and reading fluency. You can find some great home-made Sight Words games and DIY ideas to assist early reading at SightWords.com
Best Reading Games for 4-6 Year Olds
We’ve consulted early learning experts to hunt down some of the best reading games around for 4-6 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!