How can I help my preschooler build literacy skills?

Simply by talking and reading to your kids, you're helping build their literacy. And early vocabulary and oral-language skills are strong predictors of later success in reading and other school subjects.

Much has been made of the importance of young children hearing a large quantity of words, but it turns out that the quality of words they hear is just as important. In this case, "quality" refers to the words used during meaningful interactions -- for example, rituals such as dinner or bath time.

Here are some tips to build literacy:

Talk and listen to your kids … a lot. Research shows that kids who learn to speak and listen well are better prepared to read. Engage your kids in conversation about everything. Don't only ask questions that require yes-or-no answers but rather ask questions that require them to think and give complex answers. Expand your kids' talking by asking them questions about what they say.

Make up stories. Stories help kids understand the concepts of beginning, middle, and end and give them a chance to try out new vocabulary. You also can try storytelling apps.

Build kids' vocabulary. Reading and talking to your kids builds their vocabulary. But you can do more. Label objects and experiences, use accurate words to describe things, and explain how words relate to each other. For example, you could point out that a cup, a bottle, and a bag all are "containers."

Play with words. Make up goofy rhymes with your kid, have them make up silly stories, play word games, and sing songs. All these help young kids process sounds and connect them to meaning. Dr. Seuss apps can put you and your kids in the mood for wordplay.

Practice writing. Tracing and drawing letters helps with recognition and builds the understanding that letters represent sounds. These apps and websites can help.

Ask Our Experts