At this stage, your child uses her ever-increasing language skills to become a “big talker” and develops an awareness of the power of the written word. Parents and caregivers of preschoolers can help them develop into readers and writers by playing with letters and their sounds, promoting dramatic play using characters from books, and reading lots of books together.
Through his own daily experiences, your preschooler learns more and more about the way things work in the world and his place in it. At the same time, he is able to use his ever-increasing vocabulary and language skills to share his observations, ideas, and imaginary worlds with other children and adults. Young children can be entertaining storytellers, engaging conversational partners, and frustrating negotiators. During the preschool years, your child will become aware that the world is filled with letters and may begin to recognize familiar words.
You can help your preschooler become an eager reader and writer through simple conversations and reading together. It helps to plan regular times to read with your young child and talk together daily about things that interest him. You can turn everyday experiences such as waiting in lines, doing errands, and riding the bus into conversation starters. By talking about your child’s ideas, observations, and feelings, you prepare your young child for reading and writing about the world.
Encouraging Your Preschooler
Talk about fascinating things you observe in everyday life. You can support your child’s interests by providing books and activities that help him learn more about the world and how it works. For example, talk about what your child notices as he mixes blue and yellow paint–it’s green! Then what happens when you mix red and yellow? Here comes orange! Later, read a book about color, such as Mouse Paint. The combination of hands-on activities, conversation, and reading is a powerful means of developing your child’s interest in and understanding of concepts, such as colors, size, or weight.
Ask genuine questions about your child’s daily activities and experiences. Genuine questions, those to which you don’t already know the answer, encourage genuine responses. Family mealtimes can be a great time for talking. This time allows young and old family members alike to "tell the story" of their days and all the interesting, puzzling, or even frustrating things that happen.
Play rhyming games with your young child. Start with simple sounds like "at," "in," or "up" and think up as many words as you can that contain those sounds. Nonsense words are fun and perfectly acceptable. As your child masters the easy sounds, introduce harder sounds like "unky" (as in monkey, clunky, spunky, funky). Rhyming helps children become aware of the sounds of the language and lays a foundation for reading and writing development.
Read and reread your young child’s favorite books every day. Reading books with rhymes helps develop a child’s awareness of the sounds in our language, an ability that is often associated with reading success in the early grades. If you have ever read “Green Eggs and Ham ”, you will always remember the repetitive refrain, "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am." Young children also delight in predictable books with memorable refrains.
Read books with a variety of characters. All children should have the opportunity to read books with characters that look and speak like them. At the same time, children also enjoy reading stories about fantastic characters, such as talking animals that stimulate their imagination and build on their love of pretend play.
Enjoy rhyming books together. Children enjoy books with rhyming patterns. Young children find the use of nonsense rhymes playful and fun. As you read, invite your child to fill in some of the rhyming words.
As you read, point out the important features of a book. Before you start reading, show your child the title and author on the front of the book. You might say, "The title of this book is ‘Amazing Grace’. It is written by Mary Hoffman and the pictures are by Caroline Birch."
As you read, point to each word with your finger. This demonstrates to your child that there is a one-to-one match between the spoken and written word. It also draws your child’s attention to the link between the words you say and the words on the page. Pointing as you read also reinforces the concept that we read from top to bottom and from the left to the right.
Use stories to introduce your child to new words. Focusing on new vocabulary words increases reading comprehension. You can promote your child’s vocabulary development by drawing his attention to new or unusual words in the story. It’s important to just have fun with these new words and help your child use them in real-life situations. After learning "capsize" in a story, you can point out that the toy boat in your child’s bath has capsized and the animals are now in the water.
Write down what your child says about his drawings. As your child is drawing or coloring, record what he says. You can also prompt your child to "tell a story" about the pictures he creates, cuts out, or sees around him and write those down as well. Older children enjoy making their own books that combine pictures and writing (either their own writing or their words dictated to an adult). You can help "publish" your child’s stories by typing them into a computer and printing them out for children to illustrate. Encourage your child to share stories with others by showing them and reading them aloud.