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Get Ready to Read:  Five Activities

Early Literacy Begins With You!
Try these 5 simple activities every day to get your child ready to read.
Talking – Singing – Reading – Writing – Playing


Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and caregivers talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge. This will help children understand the meaning of what they read.

Ways to practice talking with your child:

  • Telling stories and stretching conversations help children learn new words, learn to express themselves and learn how to have a conversation. Use a variety of descriptive words in your own vocabulary. For example, “The apple is red, crunchy, and sweet.”
  • Talking to your child about many different events, ideas and stories helps them develop the general knowledge they need to understand the content of what they will read in books when they are older. For example, when in the kitchen cooking explain how you follow the recipe, cut up vegetables, or why you keep food in the refrigerator.
  • Respond to what your child says and extend the conversation: ‘Yes, we did see a truck like that last week. It’s called a bulldozer.’
  • Infants and young children need to hear the language (or languages) they will eventually speak in order to learn it — so if you speak two languages at home, it is beneficial to speak both languages to your child.
  • Talking to your child in the language you are most fluent in is the best way to help your child develop early literacy skills.
  • Very young children can understand spoken words long before they can speak any of them — so talk to them and you will be amazed at how your child responds.


Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words. This helps when children begin to read printed language.

Ways to practice singing with your child:

  • Sing the alphabet song to learn about letters.
  • Sing nursery rhymes so children hear the different sounds in words.
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children hear the syllables in words.
  • Singing together is a fun bonding experience with your child — whether you’re a good singer or not!
  • Singing develops listening and memory skills and makes repetition easier for young children — it’s easier to remember a short song than a short story.


Reading together – shared reading – is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. Reading together increases vocabulary and general knowledge. It helps children learn how print looks and how books work. Shared reading also helps children develop an interest in reading. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

Ways to practice reading with your child:

  • Read every day.
  • Make shared reading interactive. Before you begin a book, look at the cover and predict what the book is about. Have your child turn the book’s pages. Ask questions as you read and listen to what your child says. When you finish the book, ask your child to retell the story.
  • Use books to help teach new words. Books can teach less common words, words that children may not hear in everyday conversation. As you read, talk about what these words mean.


Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information. Children can learn pre-reading skills through writing activities.

Ways to practice writing with your child:

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Scribbling and drawing help children develop eye-hand coordination and the fine motor control they need to hold a pencil. Encourage this by providing many opportunities to draw and write.
  • Children can ‘sign’ their name to drawings, which helps them understand that print represents words. As they practice eye-hand coordination and develop their hand muscles, children can begin to write the letters in their names.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw, and write captions together. When your child tells you a story, write it down in their words. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.
  • Don’t limit writing tools to crayons and paper. Try writing in shaving cream on a baking sheet, with chalk on the sidewalk, or in the snow or dirt.
  • Writing doesn’t always have to be writing — it can be stringing beads, playing with clay or play dough, or crinkling up newspaper to help strengthen finger muscles!


Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.

Ways to practice playing with your child:

  • Give your child plenty of playtime. Some of the best kinds of play are unstructured, when children can use their imaginations and create stories about what they’re doing. Play is how children practice becoming adults and process what they see and hear every day.
  • Encourage dramatic play with dress up clothes, puppets, stuffed animals, or dolls. When children make up stories using these toys, they develop important narrative skills. This helps children understand that stories have a beginning, middle and end.
  • Pretend to read a book. Have your child tell you a story based on the pictures in the book. Or ask your child to ‘read’ a book you’ve read together many times and tell you the story. This develops vocabulary and language skills.

Why is it important for children to get ready to read before they start school?

Children who enter kindergarten with pre-reading skills have an advantage. They can focus on learning to read instead of first learning essential pre-reading skills. Children who start kindergarten ready to read have greater success throughout their school years.

Why are parents so important in helping children get ready to read?

  • You have been your child’s teacher from the day he or she was born. You know more about your child than anyone else. You are in the best position to help your child get ready to read because:
  • Young children have short attention spans. You can do activities for short bits of time throughout the day.
  • You know your children best and you can help them learn in ways and at times that are easiest for them.
  • Parents are tremendous role models – if your children see that you think reading is important and enjoy it, they will follow your lead.
  • Children learn best by doing – and they love doing things with YOU.

Information provided by Every Child Ready to Read @ your library, a parent education initiative sponsored by PLA (Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association) and ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children)