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Preschool Reading

Reading Developmental Milestones for Preschoolers

The road to reading is filled with twists, turns, and endless loops. No two children follow the same exact path. Children develop at differing rates and spend varying times in each stage of development. That said, there are some general guidelines that many young people follow in their journey toward literacy.

If you have concerns, speak to your child’s teacher or doctor. Early intervention is paramount to later success. Notably, surrounding your child in print-rich environments, such as the classrooms at Suncoast Academy, is the single-most important step you can take in helping your child develop into an effective reader.

Infancy (Newborn to 1 year)

As your very young child listens to stories, she begins to understand that stories have a beginning, middle, and end. She will learn that people’s voices fluctuate according to the story being read and that reading can evoke various emotions. When you add emphasis on certain words, point to pictures, and ask questions, you are supporting this stage of development. 

Many children this age:

  • Imitate the general sounds they hear in language
  • Look at pictures
  • Grab books, often holding them upside down
  • Vocalize while being read to, sometimes patting the pictures 
  • Respond when spoken to
  • Turn the pages with some assistance

Toddlers (age 1 to 3)

Children this age often begin pretending to read. They hold the book, point to pictures, and make sounds or words that may imitate what they have heard. They will often “read” to their stuffed animals or the household pets as well. They can respond to basic questions, such as “Where is the flower?” and “What does the pig say?” This is a great time to introduce the wide variety of print materials in the world, such as recipes, magazines, road signs, and shopping lists. Also, encourage your child to read the same book over and over. While the story will become old to you, it continues to be fascinating to your child. Moreover, it helps him develop literacy skills.

Many children this age:

  • Point to specific items in the book when prompted
  • Scribble on paper
  • Turn the pages of board books
  • Recite certain parts of favorite stories
  • Recognize books and ask for them by some identifying feature (“I want the monkey book.”)
  • Choose a favorite book and ask that it be read repeatedly

Preschool and Pre-K (age 3 to 5)

Children in the preschool years begin recognizing certain letters, particularly those in their name, followed by those of their favorite people and pets. They can understand that letters have sounds and that letters, when put together, form words. Parents can encourage literacy at this stage by reading books with diverse characters and storylines, rhyme and repetition, and asking open-ending questions while reading together. Many children love to write at this stage, so it’s important to have child-friendly materials available to scribble, draw, and begin shaping letters.

Many children this age:

  • Explore books independently
  • Make symbols that represent letters
  • Retell familiar stories
  • Sing the alphabet song with cues to prompt them along the way
  • Recognize familiar signs and symbols in the real world
  • Make up silly words and phrases
  • Recognize their name in print and write it independently in the later part of this stage
  • Realize that print in the United States is read left to right, up to down

Recognizing where your child’s development is on the continuum can provide fascinating insight. As a parent, you are your child’s first teacher and, as such, have an infinite amount of sway over his or her literacy. Introduce books and writing with love and enthusiasm, and your child will likely grow into a strong reader and writer.

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