We’re in the golden years of parenting.
Right now, in 2021, our family is between diapers and dating. And I love it.
Things are still wild and crazy (and LOUD), but that’s to be expected with six kids ages 5-13.
I admit that I don’t miss the Exhausted Years … the years I had a preschooler, baby, and toddler all at once.
I can’t count how many times I pushed a shopping cart with a baby seat in the cart, a toddler in the front, and preschoolers pulling on my coat.
Many shoppers couldn’t resist remarking, “You’ve got your hands full.”
These days, even though my eye bags are worsening, my wrinkles are deepening, and my hair is graying, I am getting sleep.
(And I am SO thankful for it!)
But you know what I do miss about those early years?
Teaching my kids to read.
Thankfully, I have one preschooler left. He’s five years old, and he’ll start kindergarten in the fall. I’ve been teaching him to read for a few months, and it’s been So. Much. Fun.
But is this necessary? SHOULD you teach your preschooler to read?
You shouldn’t teach your child to sound out words until s/he has important foundational skills.
Then, and only then, should you move on to decoding words and reading decodable text.
How to teach preschoolers to read
READ TO YOUR CHILD AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN
While reading to kids is not teaching reading, and does not guarantee that your child will be able to read successfully, it does build language comprehension … and this is a key piece of the reading puzzle. Browse all our book lists here.
TALK ABOUT BOOKS AS YOU READ ALOUD
As you read aloud to your child, ask thoughtful questions and have a discussion. This post about interactive read alouds will show you what kinds of questions to ask.
TEACH YOUR CHILD THE ALPHABET
Some people think you should start with letter sounds before teaching letter names, but I disagree … although there’s nothing wrong with teaching both at once if your child is up for it. Should you do letter of the week? Maybe. Be sure to use a fun, flexible curriculum, and teach multiple letters each week if your child can remember them.
TEACH LETTER SOUNDS
Since I taught my kids their alphabet when they were two or three years old, most of them weren’t ready to learn sounds that early. So I taught letter sounds after they knew their letters. Here is my favorite printable for teaching letter sounds.
TEACH RHYMING, CONCEPT OF WORD, AND SYLLABLES
These are all elements of phonological awareness, which basically means that kids can play with sounds in words. Search my website for free resources, or buy these packs that have everything you need at your fingertips.
- Use my Nursery Rhyme concepts of print packs to teach the concept of word.
- Use my Rhyming Activities pack to build this important skill.
- Use my Syllable Activities pack to help kids count and identify syllables in words.
SPEND A LONG-ISH TIME TEACHING PHONEMIC AWARENESS
Phonemic awareness is the ability to play with sounds in words. In recent months I’ve done a lot of study on this, and I’ve learned that this really is key in helping kids become proficient readers. The good news is that it’s easy to teach, and it only takes a few minutes a day. But you need to do this for some time, and it should continue even after you start teaching reading.
It helps to have a curriculum that you can follow. If you have a budget for it, consider purchasing Heggerty’s daily curriculum for preschool. Or download and print the free lessons from Reading Done Right. Looking for a more play-based approach? Get Marilyn Adams’ Phonemic Awareness curriculum.
ASSESS YOUR CHILD’S PHONOLOGICAL/PHONEMIC AWARENESS
Give your child a phonological awareness assessment to see if you should move on to teaching reading. I have a free assessment here. If you give the assessment and aren’t sure what your next steps should be, contact me via the Contact tab on the website. I’m happy to help!
TEACH BLENDING USING SUCCESSIVE BLENDING
Ready to read? Awesome! It’s time to get started with preschool phonics activities.
I find it helpful to start with successive blending (sometimes called cumulative blending). The above activity worked wonders for my youngest two kids. You can get the free printable (and how to use it) in this post.
PLAY CVC READING GAMES
As your learner is catching on to sounding out words, play lots of CVC word games. CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant. I have found that diving right in with decodable texts in preschool can be overwhelming. Consider start with games to build confidence.
- Our free matching games are great for beginners.
- Kids also enjoy our four-in-a-row reading games.
- Our word slider cards are another great tool.
- If phonemic awareness is solid, but sounding out words is still tough, consider using word families to start. I like our word building cards.
TEACH A HANDFUL OF BASIC SIGHT WORDS
How are things going? Is your learner getting better at those CVC words? It’s not necessary (or even helpful) to teach loads of sight words to preschoolers. However, I recommend introducing just a few sight words in preschool so that your child can be successful with quality decodable texts. I recommend teaching these words in a multisensory way using my free sight word lessons and books.
Here are some good words to start with: a, I, see, the, is
START HAVING YOUR CHILD READ DECODABLE BOOKS
“Decodable” means something different to every reader, because it means that the child has been taught the phonics patterns for most of the words.
In the past I’ve always resisted decodable books and recommended leveled readers instead. However, after a lot of study I realize that leveled books for our earliest readers are not a good choice. This is because they contain many words students could not read in isolation, so they must use context or pictures to figure out the words. In order for them to cement the words into their brains for future retrieval, it’s important that our students connect the sounds to the letters – in other words, sound them out.
This feels like slooooow going at first, when kids have to sound out every letter, but if they have a strong phonemic awareness foundation they will get it.
There are many decodable books to choose from. When starting with brand-new readers, I recommend books that move at a slow pace and have a variety of books for each level. Here are some of my favorites for very beginning readers:
- Reading for All Learners: I See Sam books
- The Alphabet Series books
- Half-Pint Readers: These are very affordable. The stories are cute and simple, but they still have a plot. Highly recommended!
- Power Readers: These are very inexpensive because they are meant to be written in. Not as engaging as some of the other books, but good to have.
TEACH OTHER PHONICS PATTERNS AND MOVE ON TO MORE CHALLENGING BOOKS
It may be best to keep going with CVC words until kindergarten. Developing automaticity with these words (so that your child can read each word without sounding them out letter by letter) is a wonderful goal, but it can take some time.
However, if your child is breezing through your CVC decodable books and is ready for the next step, teach beginning blends and digraphs. Then move on to CVCE words.
REMEMBER TO KEEP READING ALOUD TO YOUR CHILD
Sometimes, when we’re teaching our kids to read, we forget to set ample time to read to them and discuss the books. Since early books aren’t very “deep,” we need to use other literature to build vocabulary and comprehension.
I hope this post was helpful! Feel free to leave a comment below or send my team a message via the Contact tab if you need more support.