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:

5 thoughts on “01. Preschool

  1. Linda Truss

    I enjoy your site and recommend it to fellow homeschoolers. I just wanted to let you know about three other phonics resources that are popular with Australian homeschoolers – I used two of the phonics programmes extensively during my homeschooling and tutoring years.
    The names of the phonics programmes are –
    LEM phonics (Light Educational Ministries) developed in Australia also suitable for ESL students
    ACE phonics – Accelerated Christian Education (American but used by many Australian homeschoolers and in some Australian Christian schools (programme is great for kids who are struggling to learn to read)
    Abeka Phonics programme for Christian schools (distributed in Australia by LEM).

    Here are the links to the various programmes

    Your readers might also like to know that there are several homeschool facebook pages in Australia where homeschoolers often sell or give away their phonics programmes . You might also want to promote your spelfabet resources on the above mentioned homeschooling facebook pages. All the best, Lindy

    1. alison Post author

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Lindy, and for recommending my site to others, I really appreciate it. I already have LEM Phonics on my lists of phonics resources in a couple of places, and I purchased a few of their resources but then didn’t use them as I found some errors in them (perhaps these have now been fixed, I should find them again and email the company to point them out). I didn’t know about the other two sites but I haven’t made a big effort to include all the programs written for American English on this website because I wouldn’t buy any of them for use in Australia, the accent is too different and most materials require too much modification to be useful here. The Reading League is doing a great job of promoting things that are relevant to their accent in the US, so I’m keeping my focus on my own accent, as it’s very easy for Aussies to spend a lot of money on things that aren’t really suitable if they aren’t aware of how different vowels are in different accents. Hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a great 2019. All the very best, Alison.

  2. Jenny

    Hi Alison,

    Thank you for the wealth of information and resources you provide.

    I am currently looking at preschool and schooling options for my daughter, and one school that I am interested in uses Letterland in their preschool years (I’m not sure yet whether/how much it is used for school age students). I noticed that you haven’t referenced this program in the articles that I have read, and I’m wondering what the pros/cons would be if I sent my child to this early learning centre and school?


    1. alison Post author

      Hi Jenny, I am by no means an expert on it, but I think Letterland is Ok for preschoolers, they use a type of embedded picture mnemonic which certainly has good evidence of effectiveness, but my understanding is that it’s more of an initial “sounds-of-letters” approach, whereas synthetic phonics works from sounds to letters, and right through the word, not focussed on word beginnings. Can you ask them if they also use Fix-It phonics as that looks more like a systematic, explicit approach that works in tandem with Letterland? Hope that helps, Alison

  3. Linda

    HealthWISE has an online training program for Early Childhood Educators called Sounds good to me that is available on subscription for ECE and parents:

    It has been based on research and has Aussie specific resources. It uses the Gillon assessment as a per/post test to show efficacy.
    (Disclosure – I was a co-author of the program in its early iterations – much improved and expanded since then).


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