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Precursors To Reading: The Preschool Years

To encourage vocabulary development, it is important for children to be engaged in meaningful conversations with others. Children need to exchange ideas about their feelings and thoughts. Children are often imitators of what they see and hear, and they need to experience reading and writing behaviors that will encourage their interest in and enjoyment of reading and writing.

Among the first words that children recognize or read are those found on fast-food signs, the names of their favorite foods and favorite toys, the names they use for their parents, and their own name. To encourage reading, children need to be exposed to print every day; during this daily reading, print concepts are introduced that are necessary for the preschooler to learn to read. These concepts are understood when a child can:

  • show where the front of a book is;
  • realize that there are words on a page;
  • point to the words as they are read;
  • understand that one reads from left to right;
  • show where the story starts on a page; and
  • show the beginning and ending of a word.

After reading a story to a child give her the opportunity to talk about the story. She can tell you her favorite part of the story; you might also encourage her to retell the story in her own words. Children enjoy rereading the books that have been read to them. They will pull out the same book to be read again and again. They may even "read" their books by looking at the pictures and telling the story. This pretend reading, known as book talk, provides another brick in the foundation of their reading pathway.

If a child were retelling the story "The Three Little Pigs," he would probably include the language: "I will huff and puff and blow your house down." The words "huff" and "puff" are not typically in a child's basic vocabulary. These are examples of book talk words; using such words shows that the child has re-told the story using the language from the book. Normally these book words are important to the story structure or story meaning.

Book talks, story retellings, singing songs, and noticing rhymes in words are ways that children like to play with words. A child is ready to begin formal reading instruction when she is recognizing symbols, demonstrating vocabulary knowledge by using book talk, and identifying word patterns with rhymes.

Additional topics

Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6Reading - The Emergent Reader: The Infant And Toddler Years, Precursors To Reading: The Preschool Years