The Ultimate Guide to Preschool Reading

Right from the Start

The Science and Art of Teaching Reading for Early Childhood

With nearly 65% of American 4th graders not reading proficiently (NAEP, 2019), our most strategic move as parents, teachers, schools, and communities is to ensure we get reading instruction right from the start. What can we all do to serve babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to be prepared to grow into excellent readers?

The Good News

We know more about how the brain learns to read than any other area of study of the human mind. Science has revealed the essential ingredients necessary for building a reader.

The Bad News

Much of these insights have not been widely disseminated to parenting journals, teacher university prep, or mainstream reading programs.
But have no fear! We have designed this page to equip parents, caregivers, and teachers of toddlers and preschoolers with high-leverage activities known from science and years of reading instruction. Bookmark it and return again and again to these tips for building language and word recognition.

Reading Is Built on the Back of Language: Print + Language

Most people think learning to read begins with learning the ABC’s. Actually, learning to read begins in utero and develops as the child learns to speak her native language. Written language is just speech written down, so one’s ability to read and comprehend written words is intricately entwined with one’s listening comprehension.
“…before most of us possess an inkling that babies could be listening to us, infants are making astonishing connections between listening to human voices and developing their language system.”

– Maryanne Wolf, Reader, Come Home

Researchers have demonstrated this principle over and over. One thoroughly researched model of reading, the Simple View of Reading, reveals these interactions between word identification (decoding) and language (listening) comprehension. See the diagram below from The Reading League Journal.
The Simple View of Reading begins with a mathematical equation: reading achievement is the product of decoding, or word recognition, and language comprehension. In other words, the two main components that determine successful reading comprehension have to do with:
  1. the automatic recognition of the words on the page, as well as
  2. understanding of the vocabulary and concepts included in the text.

(By “decoding” the researchers mean recognizing words via understanding of the alphabetic code–that letters and letter combinations represent sounds in words. The term “word recognition” incorporates this concept of “de-coding” as well as the skill of automatic word identification from practice.)

One can’t have strong reading comprehension without strong processes in both domains of word recognition and language comprehension. At every phase of a reader’s development, parents, teachers, and the broader community can support both of these domains in order to produce confident, successful readers. In this article, we’ll examine how boosting both language and word recognition will enable our budding readers to succeed.

In the child model below, notice the Cognitive aspects of learning to read (i.e., the Simple View of Reading) as represented by the brain image. (Other affective aspects, such as Engagement and Motivation, as well as interpersonal relationships also exert powerful aspects on the child’s language and literacy development.)

In the first section, we will discuss essential ingredients for building language. In the second section, we will cover strategies for helping children learn to read words.

Building Language

Child development and reading researchers teach us that the child is not a lone wolf developing his language or reading abilities on his own (for example). Rather, the child develops these skills in relationship with the people in his immediate environment. 
When the child develops attachment–an emotional bond–to his primary parent or caregiver, he is likely off to a good start with language comprehension too. He is learning to feel secure in his primary relationships because his caregiver(s) is responsive to his needs. When he has this security, he is more likely to absorb the language in his environment. When the parent has more opportunities to follow the child’s lead and respond to his language–from the earliest days of “ba, ba, ma, ma,” to even, “Gimme some milk”–she is truly laying the foundation for future reading success!

Tip #1
Bonding with baby can build the reading brain.

Check out how Crash Course Linguistics explains the early days of a child’s language development….

Being Responsive Builds Children's Language

When you’re worn down by telling your two-year-old child to “Just stop!” or regretting the “Because I said so!” aimed at a four-year-old student, you might find some relief from one of the best-selling parenting books of all time How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. This book changed my life as a parent and teacher with its persuasive logic and helpful “do this, not that” style cartoons.
An easy insight is to describe what you want from a child rather than accuse him of something. Or, if the child is upset, we can first acknowledge his emotions–“Oh! You’re sad!”–rather than try to push the child to get over a loss–“It was just a turtle, honey.”
I use the same strategies with adults to help diffuse emotionally-charged situations. Yep, Faber and Mazlish’s advice even works for marriages!

Tip #2
Respond to children's needs with descriptions and empathy to maintain your bond & improve their thinking.

The How to Talk So Kids Will Listen… book helps us avoid interactions with children which devolve into fights, pouting, or temper tantrums. This reduction in fighting isn’t just good for “getting your zen on”–it also helps the child feel safe and connected to you. It even helps children learn to solve their own problems. It can also expand the opportunities for conversational turns–what language researchers suggest for building language comprehension.

For example, researchers demonstrated in a 2018 study that the amount of conversational turns children ages 18 to 24 months experienced predicted their IQ and verbal comprehension when they were 9 to 13 years old.
“These turn-taking exchanges may prepare the child’s cognitive and linguistic capacities for enhanced growth…”

Gilkerson et al, Pediatrics

Tip#3
Focus on conversational turn‑taking opportunities.

Stretching Our Students Can Expand Their Language Comprehension

As we go about increasing our conversational turns with children, we can also focus on expanding or stretching (a la Vygotsky) the child’s current knowledge or level of awareness. For instance, for the baby who says, 

“Binkie!”

we may expand upon her short expression to say, 

“Oh, you want me to give you your binkie! Yes, I will give you your binkie.”

Or for the three-year-old child who says,

“We goed to the store,”

a caregiver might respond, 

“Yes, we went to the store this morning.”
Parents and teachers can always expand or stretch a child’s vocabulary, knowledge, and language structures via these types of expansions.
The 3N’s–Notice, Nudge, Narrate–guideline folds in the responsiveness from above with this principle of expansions:
As Faber and Mazlich taught us above, the adult can describe or Notice what is going on with the child, Nudge the child with questions or additional information, and Narrate the experience of the child or the child and caregiver together.
An Example of the Notice, Nudge, Narrate Strategy

Tip #4
Gently stretch the child to notice and understand more language.

See the aspects of the 3N’s in this brief list of suggestions for developing language, including smart advice about television usage….

Perhaps seven-year-old Molly Wright sums the above sections best in her brilliant Ted Talk….

Kick Language Up a Notch by Reading Aloud

Want to know another secret weapon in the caregiver or teacher’s back pocket for building language from an early age?
Great! It’s an easy add for most of us: reading aloud.

Indeed, the frequently cited US national report, Becoming a Nation of Readers, noted that reading aloud is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Those caring for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged kids enrich the child’s brain, heart, and relationships by reading aloud:

...reading aloud is the "single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

Brain:

The vocabulary, concepts, sentence structure, and other complexities in written language usually exceed those in everyday oral language. Even simple children’s books give the child access to sophistication that she is unlikely to receive in other ways.
Reading aloud to her will continue to build her oral language comprehension–one of the two most important domains affecting reading achievement, as we learned from the Simple View of Reading above. (Read more about the brain benefits here.)

Heart:

With the rise of mobile device addiction, learning to love reading is growing harder and harder. How is a parent or a school supposed to push back against this seeming avalanche?
We can help our children develop a love of reading before they even discover the lure of the device! When we devote undivided attention to a child, read her a book, and discuss or re-read her favorite parts, we are drawing her attention and heart towards the beauty, fun, insight, and wonder of the book.
Even before she can read a word herself, she can know deep in her soul that books are a delight. This could create that Virtuous Reading Cycle that Dr. Dan Willingham describes in his book, The Reading Mind. (Read more about reading aloud for developing a love of reading here.)

Relationships:

Reading aloud to the child can draw her heart to love reading and to connect more deeply with the adult reading to her. When the child and adult experience a book together, the child may be drawn closer to the adult who dedicates the time to spend with her and a book. She may also develop emotional maturity, empathy, and morality by being exposed to a variety of people through books. (Read more about reading aloud for building character and bonding with a child here.)

Tip #5
Reading aloud builds language, bonds with caregivers, and the love of reading.

What to Read Aloud?

If you have access to a local library–and I hope you do; they’re awesome!–you may find it overwhelming to know which books to read to your child or student. I like to begin with:

Repetition, Repetition
Then see what genres, authors, or themes your child or students enjoy. Find more of that. And don’t be afraid to re-read. Rereading books may bore you, but many a toddler and preschooler love it!
Yes, rereading Goodnight Moon the 30th time may even benefit the child…
Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors

While repetition is fine and even laudable at times, children will likely also benefit when we don’t just include texts that are a mirror of their own identity or culture. A white child who reads texts mostly with white main characters will be missing out on the wider world outside her window. Who are the other peoples and communities she doesn’t know about?

On the other hand, a black child who rarely sees herself in the text she reads is also missing the affirmation that a mirror text could grant her. Who are the ordinary people or even the heroes that look like her?
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop encourages us to ensure that all children have access to texts that are “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” Given our US publishing history of mostly texts about white people, it’s incumbent on us to search out texts that include those of other races and cultures. The Diverse Book Finder mentioned above is one way to ensure a varied diet of texts to read aloud–so that all children see themselves in literature as well as the opportunity to step outside through the sliding glass doors.

Here’s a snippet of Dr. Bishop’s own words about mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors…

The infographic below hints at how much effort one may need to expend in order to select a reading diet that’s a true representation of children in the US.
Thematic Reading Makes Connections Faster
Another secret to building vocabulary knowledge and concepts of the world is to select themes on the same subject. Do you have a group of students who love dinosaurs? Find fiction and non-fiction books about dinosaurs and watch their  engagement soar. Words and ideas will repeat across these texts which will build up their knowledge and mastery of the content.
This repetition and topical fascination explains why that precious child you know, who can barely run, knows how to say, “Diplodocus!”
Ready to move out of the dinosaur phase?
Perhaps a tangential topic, such as reptiles or amphibians, may interest your charge and give him new opportunities to develop deep knowledge. Don’t forget to include fiction. (Or, if you have students who just read fiction, find a non-fiction text that relates to their interests too.)
Textproject.org is a remarkable website, led by Dr. Elfrieda (Freddy) Hiebert (who we’ve hosted before), of free resources to help the teacher build connections among and across words and ideas. So please poke around there to discover networks of words like this diagram below of the multiple meanings of the word “block” that relates to a unit on shapes, numbers, colors, and sizes.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in the ways in which oral language can and should be developed throughout the early years! Parents, caregivers, and teachers can support children’s future reading ability by first beginning with rich oral language development, since reading is built on the back of language. We want to:
  1. Emotionally bond with baby.
  2. Be responsive to the child’s needs via descriptions and empathy.
  3. Grow language through conversational turn-taking.
  4. Stretch the child’s language by expanding and adjusting.
  5. Read aloud a diverse array of books to build language and lay the groundwork for the child’s future reading ability.

Learning to Read Words

Recall the one math formula we began with (the Simple View of Reading)?

Word Recognition    x    Language Comprehension    =    Reading Comprehension

Since we’ve covered the high leverage ways in which to enrich language comprehension, now we’re finally ready to discuss how to develop Word Recognition in the early years.
Reading researchers have made huge discoveries since the 1960’s that reveal how the brain learns to read. Not only is word recognition built on language skills, as we discussed above, it is particularly connected to our awareness of phonology–the sounds of language.
Yes, you read that right! Even though you’re using your eyes right now to read these very words, your brain is also leaning on your processing of the sounds of language (phonology) to identify words in a blink of an eye.

Why?

Our written English language is a code for sounds. Individual sounds, or phonemes, are represented with different letters or letter combinations (i.e., “sh” or “oa”). The brain translates those letters into sounds that make words: the word “show” is 4 letters but it represents the sounds (phonemes) /sh/ and /oa/.

Our written English Language is a code for sounds.

Since English includes so many different spelling patterns and complex consonant combinations (i.e, “splint”), the early reader needs to learn to attend carefully to each sound so he can match it precisely with the corresponding letter(s). As we mature as readers, this attention to phonology lessens, but it is still an element of how we identify words.
Before a child learns to read words, he is building his language domains of Meaning and Phonology. The teacher’s job is to help him transform those domains to bond with Spelling (or Orthography).

The Teacher's job is to help him transform his language domains of Meaning and Phonology to bond with Spelling (or Orthography).

Dr. Mark Seidenberg and colleagues developed an influential triangle model of these relationships for how we read words. The image of the model below is from Seidenberg’s book, Language at the Speed of Sight. (Brain imaging has only added to the power of this model.) 
Imagine the young child who has learned thousands of words already–before learning to read words. She has learned the Meaning of words, such as “cat”, and can also attend to the sounds in the word (Phonology), so she understands that “cat” (i.e., /c/ /a/ /t/) is different from “sat” or “cot.”

Yet she doesn’t understand how the funny squiggles on the page representing “cat” (i.e., Spelling) relate to the Meaning and Phonology of “cat.” 

How shall the teacher best prepare the young child for building these Spelling (or Orthographic) bonds? The adult should begin with revealing the Alphabetic Principle.

The Alphabetic Principle Is the First Insight

U.S. culture begins the teaching of reading by teaching the alphabet. First, we usually guide our 2, 3, 4, and 5 year-old children to learn to recognize the letter names of the 26 letters of the alphabet, right?
But the alphabet is just a supporting player in how the code works. The true first step in learning to read is grasping the concept that sounds in words are pictured with letters and letter-combinations. This concept is the alphabetic principle. That’s an “Aha!” we should be teaching our pre-K students to grasp.

But the alphabet is just a supporting player in how the code works.

And when we think we’re giving students the building blocks by teaching the alphabet letters, we’re actually leaving out important information. 😮

Our written code is not exactly based on the 26 letters of the alphabet…it’s based on the 40+(ish) sounds in our language! The letters are just tools to build other representations of phonemes. For instance, the letter “s” can represent:

  • the /s/ in “sit,”
  • the /z/ in “dogs,”
  • part of the /sh/ in “shop,” and
  • even the less common /sh/ in “sure” or the /zh/ in “usual.”

While most teachers start early readers by saying (and singing!) the alphabet, this is not the introduction that researchers have demonstrated reveals the alphabetic principle. Instead, through experiments with pre-K children, researchers have revealed that the alphabetic principle is induced by tuning kids to the sounds of words and pairing these sounds with specific letter combinations(1).

Teaching the alphabetic principle helps students understand that:

  1. Our written language is a code for sounds, and
  2. These sounds (phonemes) can be represented with a lot of different letters and letter combinations (graphemes).

(In other words, the 26 letters of the alphabet alone do not depict the true nature of how our sound-based spelling system works.)

This almost feels like a secret code, and it kind of is!

Crack this code, and your students will be on the road to reading with confidence! [Read more about the alphabetic principle here.]

Tip #6
Learning to read words begins with the alphabetic principle, not the alphabet.

Watch this short example of a young student in one of her first encounters with the alphabetic principle. As she goes through this word building activity, which we call Build It, she’ll also be gaining knowledge in the two upcoming ingredients: phonemic awareness and letter-sound knowledge (phonics).

The Alphabetic Principle and Phonemic Awareness Collaborate

Did you notice in the above video how the teacher draws attention to the young student’s perception of the individual sounds in words? She is wanting the child to become attuned, or aware, of the phonemes in the words.

Why?

The concept of the alphabetic principle depends upon phonemic awareness. Since our written language is a code for sounds, the key to unlocking this code is fast processing of these sounds (aka “phonemic awareness”) in words.
Phonemic awareness & accurate sound-based decoding practice allow connections between sounds and symbols (i.e., phonemes and graphemes) to be made. To crack the code and read the word “reading,” the child needs to map the letter “r” with the sound /r/; the letters “ea” with the sound /ee/; and so on.
Sounds simple enough to the mature reader, right?
Actually, phonemic awareness does not develop without explicit instruction. 

Adults who are illiterate often know the alphabet letters but they do not perceive the individual sounds in words. And about 40% of children have a particularly hard time developing phonemic awareness. Tragically, even though the importance of phonemic awareness for the development of word reading has been known for over 40 years, some literacy programs still do not even teach it. And many teacher education programs do not mention it to their early childhood teachers in training!

Therefore, one of the sadly too-little known secrets of success in early reading acquisition is teaching phonemic awareness.
The good news? It’s actually quite easy to do and we’ll show you how in the next section!

Want to know more of the science of how the child learns to read? Check out this guest article I wrote.

Tip #7
Phonemic awareness is essential to develop to prepare for reading success.

3 Ingredients to Cracking the Code

To begin cracking the written code, a young student needs just 3 ingredients, which happen to generally work best together:

  1. The concept of the alphabetic principle
  2. Phonemic awareness, and
  3. Letter-sound (or phonics) knowledge
When we present these 3 pieces together as in the Build It video example above, the child “gets” how our code works and can start reading and spelling simple words. Montessori teachers have been mostly introducing 3 to 5 year olds to the task of reading like this for over 100 years.
The Build It activity looks deceptively simple but see the diagram below for the various reading sub-skills it includes….

As a mini-experiment to demonstrate the power of Build It (and a more challenging variation called Switch It), I taught a 4 year-old who did not seem to have yet been taught the alphabetic principle or any phonemic awareness training. We did 5 days in a row with just 1 activity a day. At first, he could not segment a 3-sound word into its individual phonemes. That is, he could not tell me that the word “sun” consisted of the sounds /s/  /u/  /n/. He also didn’t recognize any letter-sounds although he had learned several letter names.

This is quite typical for a 4 year old. But he didn’t need to stay there.
With just 8 minutes a day of instruction, he leaped ahead to be able to not only segment but also to manipulate (which is harder) 3 sound words! He also learned to use 13 letter-sounds after just these 5 days!
a 4 year-old learns 13 Sounds in 5 days with Build It & Switch It
Watch a selection of moments from each of the 5 days: 3 days of Build It; then we transfer to the slightly more challenging Switch It:
Rapid learning of the alphabetic principle, phonemic awareness, and letter-sound knowledge like this is not that unusual when we make the code plain and clear to children with activities like Build It and Switch It.

Tip #8
A simple activity like “Build It” can teach multiple essential early reading skills to very young children.

Preparing for and Supporting “Build It” with Our Youngest Learners​

Perhaps you’re impressed with the 4 year-old’s rapid improvement with just Build It and then Switch It in the video above. But you are the parent of a 2 year-old, or the teacher of 3 year-olds and you think they’re not quite ready for Build It.

You’re probably right (although you can still always give it a go)!

You can still draw attention to the alphabetic principle and phonemic awareness in other everyday activities, such as: 

  1. Storybook tracking of print and phonemes,
  2. Phoneme identity matching activities, and
  3. Handwriting letters with correct formation.
Storybook Tracking of Print and Phonemes
First, when you’re enjoying a book with a child, or a group of children, occasionally draw your finger under each word carefully. Occasionally exaggerate and elongate the sounds in the word as your finger runs underneath the word.
For instance, perhaps you’re reading Where the Wild Things Are (affiliate link). Try reading this sentence like this as you drag your finger under each word slowly:
“And /mmmmmma—-kss/, Max, the king of all /wwi—–llllllld/, wild things, was lonely and  wanted, to be where someone loved him best of all.”

So, one is drawing attention to the sounds in words by exaggerating the sounds in a word, here and there. This is a painless way to implicitly hint at the alphabetic principle.

Occasionally, note what sound a word begins with (“So Max’s name begins with the /mmmm/ sound. Do you see the /mmmm/ here?”) Researchers have tested a somewhat similar approach called “print referencing” and have found that it does cue children into important early information about how the code works.

For instance, Laura Justice and her colleagues led an experiment of 23 pre-K classrooms of children with economic, social, or developmental risks, including 9 Head Start settings. One group of pre-K teachers read storybooks to the children in a “business as usual” approach. The experimental group of teachers, on the other hand, added the print referencing intervention taught by the researchers. These teachers would reference print as they were already reading a storybook by:

  1. Asking questions about print, 
  2. Commenting about print, and 
  3. Tracking their finger along the text while reading.

After 30 weeks of these types of storybook experiences, the experimental group outpaced the “business as usual” storybook group in print concepts, alphabet knowledge, and name writing, as demonstrated by the chart below.

Thus, while you’re already enjoying a book together with a young child or group of students, you can be also paving the way for the concept of the alphabetic principle, letter-sound knowledge, and phonemic awareness to take root!

Tip #9
As you read aloud, occasionally do storybook tracking of print and phonemes.

Phoneme Identity Matching Activities

Second, as we see in the activity Build It above, the concept of the alphabetic principle is intertwined with phonemic segmentation ability and letter-sound knowledge. However, very young children sometimes find it difficult to segment even a simple CVC word into its individual phonemes.

Have no fear!

There’s a bridging activity that will pave the way for phoneme segmentation skill and ease of engaging in Build It. Try phoneme identity matching tasks as a simpler version of phoneme segmentation.

As early as 1990 researchers demonstrated that 4 year-olds could be easily taught phoneme identity. And Montessori preschool teachers have been teaching this activity for over 100 years! Make your own resources or find them with a “montessori initial sounds matching” search like this one from Etsy:

To begin with, select words that begin with continuant consonants–these are sounds that can be continued or elongated allowing the adult to draw attention to that specific sound in the word. I often choose words that begin with /s/ or /m/ in words such as “sat,” “sit,” “mom,” or “map.”

Find or create pictures or objects of a few concrete words that begin with these sounds.

First, teach the children to notice how your first batch of words all begin with the same sound (i.e., “mom,” “match,” “monkey,” “man,” and “moon”). Encourage them to stretch out that first sound in each word as you do: “/mmmmmm/.” You can point to the letter “m” on a letter-sound card and/or at the beginning of word cards, as well, but in this first stage you’ll be mostly aiming to just draw their attention to the phoneme (not the grapheme, or letter).

Next, if the child is getting the hang of it, introduce a second sound and various objects/pictures for it (i.e., /s/ and “sun,” etc.). Follow the same procedure as above to try to get them to attend to the first sound in these words.

Then the fun begins!

Create 2 columns–one for each of the 2 contrasting sounds that have been taught so far. Tell the child that you’re going to sort the objects/pictures into one of two categories (i.e., “/mmm/ or /sss/”). Sort the first object in each category for the child and then invite him to begin sorting the objects into the relevant column.

If the child makes a mistake, give specific feedback, such as,

“Actually, I hear a /mmmmm/ at the beginning of /mmmmmoon/. But this column is for the /sssss/ sound as in /sssssun/, like this picture of the sun we have here. So where should this picture of the mmmmmoo–n go?”

As the child succeeds at the task, continue to teach more initial phonemes. Then try similar ending phonemes, as in the /t/ in “mat,” “sit,” “bit,” “elephant,” or “minute.” If this activity is going well, fold in the single graphemes into the sorting activity so the child begins to associate the letter “m” with the /m/ sound and so on.

When your students are matching a few phonemes by the beginning of words, they are likely ready to begin Build It. Yeah!!

No need to wait to cover all of the sounds in the alphabet before beginning Build It. (Remember the alphabet doesn’t guide our early reading instruction–the alphabetic principle does. And the best activity for teaching the alphabetic principle is Build It.)

Try replacing the phoneme identity matching activity with Build It now, as Build It will accomplish more early reading developmental gains.

Since many phonological awareness curricula don’t attempt awareness at the phoneme level from the beginning of instruction, you may doubt that your 3, 4, or 5 year-old beginning student will be able to handle this. Let me assure you that many researchers have demonstrated that young kids can handle this type of activity. For instance, Brian Byrne and Ruth Fielding-Barnsley tested this (as have others) and they concluded…

“It is clear that preschool children can be trained to notice the identity of phonemic segments in words. All but one of the subjects scored better than chance on some of the identity tests, and 11 reached criterion on six or more of the eight phonemes. Our data therefore confirm others' observations of the teachability of phonemic awareness” (Content, Kolinsky, Morais, & Bertelson, 1986; Olofsson & Lundberg, 1985).

Tip #10
Teach letter-sounds and phonemic awareness with phoneme identity matching games.

Handwriting Letters with Correct Formation
Earlier we mentioned the importance of speed of processing the sounds of language to help with early reading acquisition. It turns out that even automaticity with writing letters is related to reading development! In recent years, researchers have been building a growing case for the importance of building letter writing skill…as it relates to reading fluency.
In the past, many practitioners–myself included–thought that the motoric accomplishment of writing letters was quite separate from the visual-auditory act of recognizing words. But, modern research indicates that by building strong letter writing skill, we can bolster reading fluency!
Why? Writing letters is one way to help cement letters and sounds in the child’s brain.

So practice correct formation of letters with normal-sized pencils, pens, or crayons. Learning this skill can still be fun! Practice in brief bursts of just 5 minutes so children’s hands don’t get too worn out.

Some teachers like to begin with teaching the letters in children’s names. Another approach is  to teach letters that begin with a similar formation, such as “a,” “c,” “d,” “g,” “o,” and “q” as they do in this sandpaper letter book.

The app Letter School is the most fun handwriting formation practice I have ever seen. It’s been a winner with every student!

Tip #11
Encourage fun practice of handwriting with the correction formation.

Two Questions

Whew!! You’re still here. Bonus points for the ones who really want to go deep! 😉

In our last section about Decoding, or Word Reading, we’ve reviewed the essential importance of 3 ingredients to the building of a good reader:

  1. The concept of the alphabetic principle,
  2. Phonemic awareness, and
  3. Phonics knowledge, or letter-sound knowledge.
And I hope you realized the power of the simple Build It activity to hit the bullseye for all 3 of the above ingredients. And to pave the way for Build It for our littlest learners, we discussed 3 easy-to-implement activities:
  1. Storybook tracking of print and phonemes,
  2. Phoneme identity matching activities, and
  3. Handwriting letters with correct formation. 

We’ve gone into a lot of depth because there are SO many mainstream cultural traditions pushing against the science…pushing against what is the easy path for teaching any child how to learn to read. And to love it!

We hope this deep dive has given you the tools to know the “Why?” that reinforces the good you’re already doing and the improvements you want to add. Bookmark this page so you can return to it when you’re ready to take in more info.

We’ve really exploded the Simple View of Reading in this in-depth article but now let’s reign it in. Will you set a plan based on the answers to 2 quick questions?

What’s 1 tactic you could add or tweak to improve your strategies for building oral language skills of the children closest you?

What’s 1 tactic you could add or tweak to improve your building of decoding (or word reading) skills of the children closest to you?

These are likely 2 fabulous places to begin. We’ve shared our earliest word reading activity Build It here, and I hope you’ve snagged the Quick Start Game gift from us to begin testing the Build It activity.

Looking for more?

If you’re ready to learn the full Reading Simplified lesson, a great place to start is with our most popular online workshop, 3 Activities a Day to Keep Reading Difficulties Away. In that workshop you will learn about our 3 most powerful activities as well as how to join the Reading Simplified Academy to receive our training and resources to implement the Reading Simplified system.

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