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Building the Pathway to Literacy: Start early!

Did you know that many instances of reading difficulty can be prevented? It is true! Preschoolers and kindergarten children can begin developing important skills that will help pave the way for reading and writing. The goal of learning to read is to understand what you have read, and even though your kindergarten aged children may not be reading yet, you can help them develop important oral language skills. When children have stronger comprehension of spoken language, they will be better prepared to understand what they read in the future.

One way to further develop your child’s language skills is to engage them in meaningful conversation. Research has shown that we can model more advanced language, such as vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar by extending conversations with our children. To do this, aim for at least five turns per conversation with your child.

By asking questions and making comments that extend their thinking, you are helping grow their language use and comprehension.

Reading with your family is another fantastic way to help build their language skills. The language we use in day-to-day conversation differs from the language written in story books; the language they will need to understand when they read. Story books often use rich vocabulary words and more complex language structures your children are less likely to hear in conversation. When you read stories aloud with rich language to your children, they will begin to develop a greater understanding of different ways to use language. 

Tips for reading aloud: 

Explain the meaning of words your children may not understand 

  • When a new or unfamiliar word pops up in the story, stop and give a child-friendly definition (e.g., “Famished means really hungry”). 

Encourage your children to be involved with the text  

  • Ask questions that go beyond yes/no answers (e.g., “What do you think Clifford is going to do with the bone he found”). 

Deepen your children’s understanding of the world 

  • Relate what you are reading to experiences in their lives to help them make meaningful connections (e.g., “Do you remember the time we were in the library, and you were so hungry, just like Clifford”). 

Don’t forget, it is never too early to start thinking about reading comprehension! 

Using Strive‐for‐Five Conversations to Strengthen Language Comprehension in Preschool through Grade One – Cabell – 2024 – The Reading Teacher – Wiley Online Library 

Wright, T. S., Cabell, S. Q., Duke, N. K., & Souto-Manning, M. (2022). Literacy learning for infants, Toddlers, & preschoolers: Key practices for educators. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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