Young children begin to recognize familiar words. Your young child may learn whole words that she can see, like STOP signs, before she learns individual letters. Young children may also learn logos and symbols, so, as they pass familiar restaurants, they may point out a known letter, such as “big M.”
Young children learn that stories have a clear structure and specific elements. As your young child listens to stories, he learns that all good stories have a beginning, middle, and end. He also learns to predict, based on the book cover, what the story will be about, as well as what might happen next or how the story will end. Young children learn that there are characters in stories and that the setting (where and when it takes place) is something that a listener would want to know. Your child will enjoy comparing the characters in a book to himself and to other real life people he knows.
Your young child may “pretend” to read. Children who have been read to frequently will pretend to read books to themselves or to their toy dolls and animals, using their own words or phrases from the story. Parents and caregivers may also observe young children incorporating pretend reading into their play—”reading” a recipe as they make a cake or “reading” a shopping list as they put groceries in their basket.
Young children become aware that the world is filled with letters. During the preschool years, many young children will be able to recite or sing the alphabet. They may begin to recognize familiar letters, especially letters in their own names, followed by letters from parents’, siblings’, and friends’ names. Finding familiar letters in their homes, at preschool, or in the grocery store is very exciting for young children, and they will let parents and caregivers know when “I found another big N!” or “Hey, there is the little t!”
Encouraging Your Preschooler
- Read and reread your young child’s favorite books every day. Reading books with rhymes helps develop a child’s awareness of the sounds in our language, an ability that is often associated with reading success in the early grades. If you have ever read “Green Eggs and Ham ”, you will always remember the repetitive refrain, "I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am." Young children also delight in predictable books with memorable refrains.
- Read books with a variety of characters. All children should have the opportunity to read books with characters that look and speak like them. At the same time, children also enjoy reading stories about fantastic characters, such as talking animals that stimulate their imagination and build on their love of pretend play.
- Enjoy rhyming books together. Children enjoy books with rhyming patterns. Young children find the use of nonsense rhymes playful and fun. As you read, invite your child to fill in some of the rhyming words.
- As you read, point out the important features of a book. Before you start reading, show your child the title and author on the front of the book. You might say, "The title of this book is ‘Amazing Grace’. It is written by Mary Hoffman and the pictures are by Caroline Birch."
- As you read, point to each word with your finger. This demonstrates to your child that there is a one-to-one match between the spoken and written word. It also draws your child’s attention to the link between the words you say and the words on the page. Pointing as you read also reinforces the concept that we read from top to bottom and from the left to the right.
- Use stories to introduce your child to new words. Focusing on new vocabulary words increases reading comprehension. You can promote your child’s vocabulary development by drawing his attention to new or unusual words in the story. It’s important to just have fun with these new words and help your child use them in real-life situations. After learning "capsize" in a story, you can point out that the toy boat in your child’s bath has capsized and the animals are now in the water.
Learn more about how preschoolers develop into readers through writing.