Literacy Helping Your Five-Year-Old Become a Reader

Age five is a key year for supporting your child's reading skills. At this age, kids begin to identify letters, match letters to sounds and recognize the beginning and ending sounds of words. They'll start to have a basic grasp on the idea that words in a book are read left-to-right and top-to-bottom. Five-year-olds still enjoy being read to — and they may start telling their own stories, as well. This is a great age to play word games together! Your example and interest in them will leave a lasting impression.

Simple and fun ways to help your child build reading skills:

Follow Their Interests

Your child's interests can be the hook to dive into reading. If dinosaurs excite your child's imagination, look for short online videos about dinosaurs, take a virtual tour of a natural history museum, check out dinosaur books from the library, read dinosaur facts together and let your child share what she's learned with Grandma the next time they talk or visit. On the flip side, let a favorite book lead to a special activity: if your child reads a book about butterflies, find a caterpillar and watch it grow into a butterfly. If your child likes a book about trains, arrange to ride a train or visit a train station.

Dinosaurs A to Z

Your child can practice the letters of the alphabet while singing a song and learning about the many different names of dinosaurs.

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Find Funny Books

Kids like to read funny books! A whopping 70 percent of kids say they want books that make them laugh, according to Scholastic's Kids and Family Reading Report. Check out this list of fifteen books to get the whole family giggling.

Silly Sentences

Your child can showcase her creativity in this activity that uses text from newspapers to create new and silly sentences.

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Be a Role Model

Finally, don't forget to be a reader and writer yourself. One of the most effective ways to help children become readers and writers is to show them through your own example that you value literacy — and that reading and writing have useful purposes. Keep books and writing materials in the home, and talk to your child about what you are doing when you read and write.

Martha Speaks Word Spinner

Help your child build storytelling and oral vocabulary skills while playing six interactive mini-games with the whole family.

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Reading on the Go!

As you run errands together, point out signs and symbols, from traffic signs to the names of businesses to flyers at the store. For example, you might say, "Look at this flyer! It says there's a sale on fruit today. Can you find the word 'banana'? Look for the letter B."

Build A Sign

In this activity, your child can go on a sign hunt to practice letter recognition and sign reading skills.

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Read to Your Child

Reading aloud to kids is "the single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading," according to a landmark study. When kids sit next to a caring adult and hear engaging stories, they develop positive associations with books and build their vocabulary and comprehension skills. For helpful hints about how to make the most out of read-aloud time, click here.

Mixed-Up Headlines

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Exercise your child's creative muscles in this activity by using newspapers to create new and silly headlines.

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Connect Books to Real Life

Skilled readers make connections between what they read in books and the world around them. When you read books with your child, look for connection points.

  • That character reminds me of your Uncle Juan! They both love telling funny stories.
  • She's sure a picky eater — just like your little brother.
  • He's afraid there's a monster under his bed. When I was little, I used to think a monster lived in the washing machine because it made loud noises when my mom turned it on!
  • Oh, they are going to the hospital. Do you remember when you went to the hospital to get stitches?

A Folktale Play

Listenting to and learning about folktales can help children better understand cultures from around the world. Together with your child, choose a folktale and perform it as a play.

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Keep Books in Easy Reach

Make it easy for your child to explore books. Keep a basket of books at kid level or in a "book bag" in the car for kids to flip through on rides. Place a couple of books at the foot of the bed for your child to look at first thing in the morning. Make a small reading corner or nook for your child — something as simple as a few pillows, soft blanket and a stack of library books. In other words, make books an ordinary and essential fixture in your home.

Super Why! To the Rescue

Your child can come to the rescue with the Super Why team by figuring out which word completes the sentence.

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Talk About What They Are Watching

Television shows and movies tell stories, and understanding the structure of stories builds reading comprehension. So talk to your kids about what they are watching. Who is their favorite character? Was any part scary or surprising? What happened at the beginning, middle and end? For example, if you are watching Curious George together, you may say, "There's that monkey again. I wonder what he is going to be curious about today?" After the show, talk about favorite moments: "Remember how the monkey dug a hole and then the hat fell in? That was funny!"

All Aboard with Words Game

Your child can develop persistence and practice early literacy and spelling skills by playing a Thomas themed word game.

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Play "What Else," "What If" and "I Spy"?

Before kids recognize letters, they can recognize sounds. Help them connect sounds to letters. This can be as simple as saying, "I like ba-ba-ba-bananas and ba-ba-ba-baseball. What do you like that begins with the letter B?"

You can also practice manipulating word sounds by replacing the opening sound of a word with a new sound. For example, you might say, "What if every name in our family began with the /w/ sound? Mommy would be called . . . Wommy! And Grandma would be Wandma!" Or "What if all the food at the table started with the /t/ sound? This pickle would be a . . . tickle!"

 Give "I Spy" a reading twist by saying, "I spy something that begins with the letter ____."

Dog's Letter Pit

Dog is having fun jumping into a pile of letters. Your child can practice matching letters and their sounds to create words with Dog.

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Use Stories as a Springboard for Pretend Play

Children will delight in taking on the roles of favorite characters, whether it's Fancy Nancy or Pete the Cat. In addition to acting out favorite scenes, they can create new ones of their own. Play can help children develop skills that are fundamental to reading by stimulating language development and the creative use of words. Moreover, as they create new worlds, they begin to gain an understanding of characters, the structure of stories and point of view.

Create-Your-Own Superhero

Your child can practice letter-sound correspondence while making his or her own Super Why superhero.

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Raise a Reader with Super Why

Super Why introduces children to the power of reading -- and helps kids develop problem-solving skills along the way. Through engaging stories and games, your child can practice key skills like letter identification, word decoding, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension.

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Activity Finder: Learn With Your Five-Year-Old

Explore our Age-by-Age Guide: