01. Preschool

Preschoolers should spend most of their time playing, developing their speaking, listening, imaginations, motor and social skills and so on. The most important thing adults can do to help them get literacy-ready is read them lots of stories, play with them and have lots of relaxed conversations (avoid barraging them with questions! Anxious parents sometimes do this, and it can make kids clam up).

However, many preschoolers are already pestering adults to teach them to read and write. The first thing they need to know is that spoken words are made of sounds, and letters are how we write them. You can help them develop their awareness of sounds in words if you say words slowly and help them to separate out the sounds (first sound is easiest, then last sound, and middle sounds are hardest), or telling them two or three sounds and helping them blend them together into words e.g. “u-p = up”, “d-a-d = dad”, “sh-o-p = shop”.

There is a great, free, online Udemy course called “Help your child to read and write” for parents of 4-6 year olds, which follows the Sounds~Write approach I also use in clinic. It makes the task of helping kids hear the sounds in words and represent them with letters straightforward and logical. Sign up for it here.

You can download my free First Phonics Picture Book from this website to help you show a young child how written words are made from letters that represent sounds. Each sound is represented by just one spelling, repeated multiple times, and each word is illustrated by a photo. Click here for a blog post explaining more about this book and giving sample pages, or here to go straight to the shop and download it.

Children need to learn to hold a pencil correctly and control it, and once they can do that in drawing and colouring they can start practising correct letter formation and writing between lines e.g. by tracing letters you write. If you want handwriting practice books, try the ones from Phonic Books, Get Reading Right or the book Milo’s Birthday Surprise from Little Learners Love Literacy.

Many preschoolers are also spending some time using alphabet/literacy apps on phones and tablet computers, and of course there are many simple storybooks and other printed resources that they can use to learn the basics about sounds and letters. Here are some activities that might help rather than confuse them about literacy:

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