Skills children need before learning to read


Before children can learn to read, there are some skills they need to develop.


Mother reading to sonsOne of the most important skills is motivation: if children understand what's in it for them, they are more likely to make the effort to learn to read.

Motivation can be developed by:

  • Reading aloud to your child, talking about the words and pictures, sharing ideas about the book
  • Reading yourself – children who see adults reading, and enjoying reading, are much more likely to want to read themselves
  • Making sure your child is surrounded by books - you don't need hundreds of books at home, but make regular trips to the library or bookshop, not just to borrow books but to spend time together browsing and learning to make choices.

Understanding how print works

  • Direction: in English, print flows from front to back, top to bottom, left to right.
  • Sequence: orientation (the way up something is) and sequencing are important.
  • Language: sounds make words; words make sentences.
  • One printed word matches one spoken word: if there are seven words on the page, you should read seven words.
  • Matching: print is constant. The word 'cat' has the same meaning no matter where it is written or what the lettering looks like.
  • Memory: can children recognise their names? Can they remember shop signs? A good memory is essential for a good reader.

Although these are all key concepts that children need to begin to read, they can be practised in other ways.

Matching sequences of cars, finding the odd one out, developing computer skills, cooking, learning and chanting nursery rhymes and silly poems... all these activities away from the written word help children to develop early skills for reading.

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Last updated: 3 months ago