Encouraging Early Literacy Skills with Your Preschooler

Written by: Anna Rooney

Around the age of three, many children start showing “meta-linguistic awareness”; this means that they start noticing the structure of language.  They may demonstrate this awareness by making up silly words or laughing at the sounds of words.   Some children might even notice rhyming words.  Meta-linguistic awareness is essential to literacy development.  It includes sound awareness (phonological awareness) and print awareness.   We can encourage meta-linguistic awareness when we talk to our children and read them stories. 

Here are 10 examples of listening questions that encourage phonological awareness (awareness of speech sounds):

  1. “Here are two pictures, ball and shoe, which picture begins a “b” sound?”
  2. "Tell me the sound you hear at the beginning of the word food?”
  3. “I am going to say 3 words, Which 2 words begin with the same sound: cup/cat/moon?
  4.  "Here is a picture of a cat. Finish the word for me: ca__ "
  5. What word do these sounds make: m...oo...n?"
  6. "Say ball. Now say it again but don't say /b/"
  7. "How many sounds can you hear in the word Mom”?
  8. “Can you name anything that starts with a /b/ sound?
  9. "Which word does not rhyme: cat/hat,/fish?"
  10. "Tell me a word that rhymes with cat?" or “Do hat and cat rhyme?”

Here are 4 examples of how you can encourage print awareness during reading:

  1. Look for words that start with a certain letter (“Let’s find all the words that start with /b/”).
  2. Count the words in a line.
  3. Find uppercase and lowercase of a letter.
  4. Find words with certain numbers of syllables (It will help to clap or tap out the syllables.)

Here are 4 examples of how you can encourage early reading comprehension skills:

  1. While reading picture book, identify words according to different categories (e.g., foods, animals, and actions).
  2. Take pictures of a 3-4 step activity (e.g., child making a sandwich) and have your child put the pictures in sequence.
  3. Ask your child to predict what will happen next when reading stories by saying, “I wonder what will happen next.”
  4. Look at photo albums together and encourage your child to help you re-tell recent events in sequence (e.g., First we went to the zoo.  Then we went to dinner with Grandma.   Last, we went to the hotel).
  5. After reading a story, re-tell the story together and have fun remembering the events.
  6. When reading, use self-initiated comments such as, “I like the big, brown bear” to encourage your child to participate in a conversation.

Most importantly, have fun with literacy!

Make up silly sounding words!  Change the names in familiar songs “Twinkle twinkle little bat”!  Make up silly rhymes and have fun pointing out sounds in words “Pizza starts with a “p” sound just like your name, Pete” and words that rhyme “I said pick up your cup-hey, that rhymes!”   You might even play “I spy” games like, “I spy something that has wheels and starts with a “c” sound”.

Posted on April 08, 2013 at 3:20 PM