Getting Preschoolers Ready To Read

Here’s an interesting article written by Kim Jacobs, National Center for Families Learning Project Manager. The article is from a literacy tab produced by the Newspaper Association of America and sponsored by  The article focuses on getting preschoolers ready to read.



By Kim Jacobs, NCFL Project Manager

Rhymes? Rhythm? Repetition? That’s kid stuff, isn’t it? A way to keep children occupied and have a little fun, right? In fact, rhymes, rhythm and repetition are important for helping preschool children get ready to read, much like reading aloud does.

Parents and other adults play an important role in supporting young children’s emerging literacy. We know that preschool children need many kinds of experiences with print to help them become good readers. Preschoolers love to have fun with language, and this can be done through play and in everyday routines—like reading the newspaper!
Talking and listening are important skills for all of us. When children listen, they take in sounds and words and learn to understand conversation and speech. So what can parents do to help children build their oral language skills? They can talk—and talk a lot! According to researcher Todd Risley, the average young child should hear 1,250 words or more per hour in every day interactions at home.

That’s a lot of words, but newspapers can help you discover and explore them. Find an interesting article with a photograph in your paper. Read part of the story aloud to your family and show the picture to your preschooler. Ask her what she thinks the picture is about. Respond to what she says and ask more questions to extend your conversation. Talk about how pictures can tell a story just like words you read or say.

SOUNDS, SOUNDS, SOUNDS  – Our lives are full of sounds—speech, songs and the world around us. Help your preschooler pay attention to sounds. Point out things in the newspaper that make sounds or identify the beginning or ending sounds of words. Make connections to things your child understands. “Look Marta, here’s a picture of Manny, the monkey at the zoo! His name starts out like yours. They both start with the letter ‘M.’ Let’s make some rhymes: Manny, Fanny, Danny. Can you say one?”
Bring out the rhyming books and dust off the record player—everything from Mother Goose to Dr. Seuss can help children play with sounds. Once children can hear, identify and play with sounds, they move on to sounding out words.

HOW DO WE USE THE NEWSPAPER?  When children are read to often, they begin to understand how books, magazines and other forms of print work. How does the newspaper work? Watch how your child turns the pages, looks at the print, and notices different features of the text. Ask him/her some questions about the newspaper as you look at it together.

“Am I holding the paper right-side-up or upside down? Should I start at the front and go to the back? How do I follow the words on the page? Yes, from the left to the right.What are these symbols? They are letters. Do the letters make words? Are the pictures important to the story?”

These are concepts of print that children begin to understand when they interact with print. They are essential for helping children get ready to read. As preschoolers get ready to read, it’s important for them to understand that letters are symbols and that words are made up of these symbols. Older preschool children often recognize that these symbols represent sounds. Preschoolers need lots of opportunities to see, handle and use letters in their play.

THE POWER OF A NAME – What’s the most important word to a child? His/Her name! Preschoolers are proud when they can string together the letters in their names. Look through the newspaper headlines with your child and cut out the letters of her name.

Glue them on paper or just move them around on the tabletop to put them in the correct order. Make a game of it. It’s a big deal for young children to see their name in print.

Helping preschoolers get ready to read is kid stuff – and adult stuff, too. It’s up to adults to provide the everyday experiences—talking and listening, songs and plays, exposure to letters and words and books—that help children get ready. Your daily newspaper can be a wonderful tool along the way.