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Preschool Years: Encouraging Emerging Literacy


The preschool years are a prime time for developing the skills needed to support future literacy and reading skills. Formal reading instruction at this point is NOT recommended for most children. Instead, providing an environment rich in language opportunities built around the child’s every day experiences is the key to ensuring that pre-reading skills are acquired before the child enters kindergarten.

The skills that need to be developed and nurtured during the preschool years include:

Print Awareness
Understanding that the letters and symbols that permeate a child’s world have meaning, and that they can be used in many different ways to communicate and share information. Letters, combined into words, are written symbols for spoken language.

The Alphabetic Principle
More than being able to recite the alphabet or sing the “Alphabet Song,” children who are ready to enter school need to be able to recognize most letters automatically. The less time a child has to spend thinking about the names of individual letters, the more he will be able to concentrate on words as a whole.

Phonological Awareness
Ouch! This is a very complex-sounding word for a group of concepts that are key to reading success, and not as complicated as the term implies. Basically, children need to understand that language is broken up into individual units of sound, they need to be able to distinguish these individual sounds and combine them in different ways to form new words, they need to hear the rhymes and rhythms of language. They will also need to connect these sounds to individual letters or groups of letters.

The good news is that all of the above required skills, and other concepts that are important like counting, “pretend” writing, and recognizing colors, shapes, and patterns can be acquired using every day activities and opportunities. During this time, there are several things adults can do to help develop a child’s early literacy skills.

Create a Language-Rich Environment
Make sure the tools of literacy are readily available by providing paper, writing materials, and books. Spend time talking about the stories you read and the day’s activities. Show and share with your child the ways in which you use print, reading, and writing to conduct your every day life.

Sing Songs and Play With Words
You can make up silly words to reinforce language sounds and rhyming skills. Talk about the names of things, find things that begin with the same letter as your child’s first name, label things around the house or classroom.

Read With Your Preschooler
The research is very clear that the amount of time a child has spent sharing books and stories with caring adults is the greatest predictor of future reading success.

Programs and Activities
  • Henderson Happenings (City of Henderson, Parks and Recreation Programs)
    Listing of classes and programs offered through the City of Henderson Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Dignity Health St. Rose Dominican Hospitals Family to Family Connection
    This free, state-wide resource program is for all parents of children from birth to 48 months. Services include hospital visits, classes and workshops at the New Baby Center, and a Resource Lending Center with books, videos, and educational materials. There are other Family to Family Connection locations throughout Southern Nevada.
  • National Center for Families Learning: Interactive Tools
    Spend time together with your family while you have fun and learn!
  • Wee Can Sign
    Long before they can speak, babies and toddlers can communicate using their hands! Babies (some as young as 8 months of age) can show you what they are thinking about using American Sign Language. Learn this early, effective form of communication which has been proven to reduce frustration, increase vocabulary and enhance the parent/child bond. 
  • Born 2 Sign
    Signing is a powerful communication tool for children too young to speak and is fun for children of all ages. Includes an online signing dictionary.

Early Literacy
  • Reading is Fundamental
    Books and activities for preschoolers.
  • Helping Your Child Become a Reader
    Activities for children from infancy through age 6. 
  • Ready to Learn
    PBS project that helps children ages birth to age eight gain the skills, especially literacy, they need to be successful in school and life.
  • Read the Books
    Recommended books -- all categories, all ages.
  • Get Ready to Read
    A simple, online kindergarten readiness assessment with skill-building activities and online learning games. 
  • Reading Rockets
    Reading activities and information for preschool and school-age children.

Make Learning Fun!
  • Starfall
    Prepare children for school and support them once they are there with this educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children.
  • ABCteach
    Printable early literacy activities.
  • ¡Colorín Colorado!
    A bilingual site for families and educators of English language learners, filled with information and activities.
  • Monthly Activity Calendar
    A great resource for you to engage your child in activities that enhance their reading abilities every day.
  • Sesame Street
    Games, videos, coloring sheets, and more!
  • Storyline Online
    Online, streaming video program featuring Screen Actors Guild members reading children's books aloud. Includes activities.
  • Enchanted Learning
    Educational web sites and games designed to stimulate creativity, learning, enjoyment, and imagination.
  • Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics
    Activities for children in preschool through grade 5.

Parenting Help
  • Born Learning
    Your child's "ages and stages," as well as age-appropriate activities for encouraging learning and pre-literacy skills. Sponsored by United Way Success by Six.
  • Read to Your Baby
    Read-aloud tips, book reviews, and more.
  • Parents Action for Children
    Rob Reiner and his wife founded this organization to raise public awareness about early childhood development and advocacy.
  • Zero to Three
    Boston University School of Medicine and the Erickson Institute maintain this comprehensive site to keep parents, child care providers, and pediatricians up to date on the latest information and research about this age group.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Helping Your Preschool Child
    Get your child ready for school with activities for kids from infancy through age 5.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    Health and parenting information from the experts.
  • Parenting Counts
    Video clips, helpful information, and research on parenting and early learning.
  • Preventive Ounce
    Can't understand why your child behaves the way he does? This online questionnaire might help you better understand your child's temperament.

Local Assistance