Here’s How to Teach Preschoolers to Read

October 21, 2022

How to Teach Preschoolers to Read

Some children are precocious readers. They might gravitate towards books and words; parents might find it easy to sit down and teach their children how to sound out words or identify their letters. While some children read in preschool, others might not be ready to read.

Every child develops differently. Not every child reads or learns to read at the same pace, but parents of preschoolers might be interested in working with their child to develop early literacy skills. Here’s how to teach preschoolers to read or help them prepare for reading in kindergarten.

  • Work on learning the alphabet
  • Help them learn the sounds of letters
  • Read daily
  • Talk about stories
  • Create stories together
  • Visit the library and let them explore
  • Play reading or phonics games
  • Work with children to identify sight words
  • Ask them about their favorites and choose books that focus on these interests
  • Don’t turn reading into a battle

The Alphabet is the Key to Reading

Decoding words fluently is crucial to reading. Children can’t learn to decode if they don’t know the code. The alphabet is the fundamental code to literacy. Parents who want to help their preschooler learn to read need to start with the most basic skill: teach them the alphabet.

As children, many parents probably sang the alphabet song. This childhood favorite can be an easy and fun resource to help preschoolers learn their alphabet.

Parents also can create a matching game to play with children at home. Buy a stack of index cards and make two cards for each letter. Shuffle the deck and spread them out face down. Take turns flipping over two cards in an attempt to create letter matches.

To help children correlate the sound to the letter, parents also might include a picture on the card of an object that starts with each letter. As children become fluent at making letter matches and identifying each letter, parents can create another set of cards with the lower case letter. Integrate the deck of lowercase letters and teach children to match up the little letter with the big letter.

Matching games are fun for children. Not only do they help build skill fluency, but they also can help children with their focus and memory skills.

Flash cards also are another popular tool for helping children to identify their letters. However, skilling and drilling children with flashcards might not be incredibly fun for them. Some young preschoolers might not have the patience to sit and work on flash cards.

Practice the Sounds of Letters

Matching games can help children correlate an object and its sound to the letter that starts the name of the object. However, parents also could teach letter sounds anytime during the day.

If parents are running errands with their preschooler, they can help children spot objects and name the first letter of the word. Emphasize the sound of the first letter by noting: “I see a dog; duh, duh, dog. What letter does the word dog start with?”

Many books also are written to help children learn to identify sounds. Some books focus on the alphabet and include illustrations and stories about the letters and their sounds. 

Parents also can take children on sound/letter scavenger hunts around the house on a rainy day. Help children find objects that start with each letter of the alphabet.

How to Teach Preschoolers to Read

Read Daily

Studies have revealed that children who are read five books daily enter kindergarten knowing more than a million more words than children whose caregivers didn’t read to them.  

Reading to children doesn’t just help them learn words, but it prepares them for their reading journey. Reading is Fundamental noted that 1 in 3 children don’t have the necessary skills to read in kindergarten.

The most important habit that parents can encourage is a love of reading. They can influence this interest and prepare preschoolers for reading in kindergarten by reading to children every day.

Parents can let children pick their own books. Read together, read often, and try to read five or more books per day. These books don’t have to be long; parents might even choose short  interactive stories that let preschoolers press sound buttons to enhance the story.

Talk about the Stories

Books are fun and stories can be sad, happy, funny or even quirky. Talk to children about the story while reading a book or after the story. Ask them what they liked (or maybe didn’t like) about the story. Who was their favorite character?

Talking about the book can help children learn to think about stories they read. At a young age, these book chats aren’t about testing comprehension, but asking questions and talking about the story can help children with their comprehension.

Create Stories Together

Is it a rainy or snowy day? Are kids stuck inside? Maybe the family is in the car embarking on a long road trip. Use the time together to make up stories.

Parents or children can start the story and each person can take a turn adding to the story. One way to do this—especially if many family members are participating—is to have an object to pass to the next storyteller (like a foam ball).

This type of storytelling can result in some humorous plot points. Children and parents can have fun trying to decide what happens next. Play story games anywhere and have fun weaving an interesting tale.

How to Teach Preschoolers to Read

Visit the Library and Explore

A fun outing for children is a visit to the library. Public libraries have a section for children; this section might even include special seating or fun props.

Parents can let children explore the books and find stories that they want to read. A visit to the library can help children see all the books that they can read.

In addition, parents also could take children to weekly storytime sessions at their public library. Many libraries host these events, and it can be a fun time for preschoolers to hear new stories and socialize with other children.

Play Reading Games

Parents can create match games for letters using index cards. However, parents also might need games on the go. There are many phonics and reading games via apps that can be downloaded to smartphones or tablets.

While both Google Play and the App Store might carry some of the same titles, each platform also could offer other options that are unique to either Android or Apple. Explore all the options by searching for “phonics games,” “reading games” or even “letter games.”

Practice Learning Sight Words

In kindergarten and later grades, students will be expected to learn a list of sight words. Mastering and memorizing these words can simplify reading as these words are those that children need to know on sight.

Parents can use the Dolch List of Sight Words, and they can find sight word lists online that are divided up by grade levels. Help preschoolers learn the list of kindergarten sight words by creating flashcards or by playing match games (make two cards for each word).  

Ask Children about their Favorite Interests

Children can pick the books they want to read, but those who can’t yet decode words might not be able to read book titles that can help them identify books that interest them. To find books that lean into a child’s interests, parents can ask children about their favorite characters, heroes, animals, or other subjects.

Parents also might ask children what they want to learn about or read about. Do they love the stars? Find age-appropriate books about constellations or the universe. Creating interest lists can help parents find books at the library that will resonate with their child.

Don’t Turn Reading into a Battle

When children are only in preschool, they might not be ready to learn to read. Not all preschoolers are ready to begin a rigorous reading journey.

Parents might have a goal that they want their child to read before kindergarten. While parents can encourage interest in books and stories, pushing children to read if they aren’t ready or interested might backfire. It could make children avoid reading or make them feel that reading is just homework.

Avoid turning reading into a battle. Instead, read to children everyday to encourage their interest in books and different stories and characters. In addition, parents can help children learn their alphabet and understand the sounds that the letters make in a word. These basic skills can help prepare children to read in kindergarten and beyond.