By Megan Ahlman, M.A. CCC-SLP,
Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center
Children ages 3-5 are considered to be preschool-age. During this time, it is important to lay a strong foundation of language and literacy skills. Early exposure to a variety of language concepts and literacy themes can prepare your child for success in preschool and ensure they have adequate time to master skills that will help them to thrive in kindergarten.
Language is comprised of listening and speaking skills. The more vocabulary and basic concepts a child is exposed to may improve their language skills. Preschoolers are expected to understand complex spoken sentences and follow 1-2 step directions consistently. They are also expected to seek new information by asking questions. Preschoolers should use language to express their wants, needs, thoughts, ideas and feelings using adequate details and reasoning. They can problem-solve and predict what will happen during daily routines.
Early literacy is comprised of print concepts, phonological awareness as well as letter and word recognition. Since preschoolers are not ready to actually read entire books on their own, the focus is exposure to books and early “pre-literacy” concepts, including:
- Understanding that words are read from left to right and top to bottom.
- Orienting books to be right-side up and beginning to read on the front cover.
- Pointing to words to demonstrate understanding that the print carries meaning.
- Recognizing and producing rhyming words.
- Recognizing that words are separate units that make up a sentence.
- Blending and segmenting syllables and sounds to form words.
- Identifying the first and last sounds in spoken words.
- Recognizing and naming upper and lower case letters, especially letters in their first name.
- Recognizing the sounds associated with letters.
Book reading is an easy way to incorporate both language and literacy skills. Books can introduce new vocabulary words and feelings, grammar rules and other age-appropriate concepts. Here are some ideas to boost your child’s early pre-literacy skills and make book reading more interactive:
- Pick at least two new words per book to teach your child. Help them ask questions about the meaning of unknown words. Ask, “Do you know what a lair is?” If they respond “no,” reply, “How could you ask me to find out?”
Prompt them to questions like “What is…” and they may independently finish the sentence or ask “What’s a lair?”
- Ask your child questions about major events in a story. Keep a sticky note on your child’s bookshelf with the words “who, what, when, where, why” written on it to remind you to ask each of these different types of questions at least once while reading a book.
- Take turns reading the story to help your child remember story elements in order. Retelling a story engages a child’s language skills by requiring them to comprehend what was said, and then verbally explain it to them. After reading a book, say to your child “Now you tell ME the story!” See how much your child can remember as they hold the book and turn the pages.
- Talk about the following print concepts every time you read a story: front/back cover, spine, words, pictures, author, illustrator, title and characters. Before you begin reading, hold a book upside down and have your child “catch you” and correct the orientation of the book.
- Explain the concept of rhyming to your child and point out rhyming words in stories. Have your child attempt to finish phrases or sentences with a rhyming word (e.g. “The cat in the …”).
- Clap out each word of a sentence (e.g. I-will-drive-the-car.) and its syllables (e.g. ba-by, dog-house).
The information in this article is based off of Ohio’s Early Learning & Development Standards, Language and Literacy Domain, which is accessible through the Ohio Department of Education website.