Read Every Day
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do at this stage to foster your child’s early reading and writing skills is to read to her every single day. A recent OECD study comparing the role of parents in education in several countries found that the factor that best predicts better reading performance when a child is 15 is whether she was read to during her early years. So read as often as you can to your child, even if just for 20 minutes a day, and do your best to make reading time a fun experience that both of you enjoy.
Point Out Authors and Illustrators
When you sit down to read a book with your child, start by reading the title and the name of the author and illustrator. This will help to familiarize her with these important attributes of a book. Soon she may have favorite authors or illustrators, such as Dr. Seuss, and will be able to recognize their work.
Read the Same Books
Make sure to read the same books to your child over and over again, over extended periods. The better she gets to know a book, the more ways she will find to enjoy it. During one reading she may just focus on the pictures. A week later, she may pay more attention to the story itself. A couple months later, she may notice the rhyming patterns of the words or focus on new vocabulary words.
Make Reading Engaging and Interactive
When you are reading to your pre-kindergartener, make it as engaging and interactive an experience as possible for her. Pause from time to time to ask her questions about what you’ve read so far and what is to come. Ask her how she thinks a character is feeling or what she thinks will happen next. Make sure she understands it’s fine if she guesses wrong. The fun is in the guessing.
Once you've finished a story, have a little discussion with your child about it. Ask her what she liked best about the story, who her favorite character was, and why they did specific things in the story. Learning to talk about what she has read will be an important foundation for the critical thinking skills that will be so important throughout her life.
Make sure to include non-fiction books in the titles you choose. Pre-kindergarteners are fascinated by the world around them and learn a lot about how it works from non-fiction books. They especially love books about animals (including dinosaurs, of course!), outer space, and trucks and machines.
Establish Good Reading Habits
Reading skills will always be essential to your child’s academic success, so do everything you can to make sure that she develops good reading habits. It’s especially important that she sees you and other adults enjoying reading. This will help her view reading in a positive light.
Use Songs and Lyrics
Reading to your child isn’t the only way to ensure that she becomes a strong reader as she gets older. Singing songs with her and familiarizing her with a range of lyrics also helps develop language skills.
Make Eye Contact
Make sure that you make eye contact with your child when you speak to her. Adults are often so busy sitting at the computer, checking our iPhones, or doing household chores that we don’t pause and look directly at our children when they’re speaking. Try to stop what you’re doing and give her your attention when your child speaks to you.
Fill in the Word
Fill in the word. When reading nursery rhymes, poems, or books with rhyming words, read the verse then let your child “read” by filling in the rhyming word. When reading “Hickory Dickory Dock. The mouse ran up the _____,” pause to let your child fill in the word “clock.” This will come naturally and your child will enjoy helping you read.
Encourage Writing and Drawing
Encourage your child to write and draw as early as possible. Make sure she has access to plenty of crayons and markers. Don’t worry about whether she’s holding them correctly at this point. The important thing is that she learns to love using writing and drawing tools.
Using playdough and toys that require her to manipulate small shapes will encourage the development of dexterity in her fingers that will be important as she learns to hold a pencil correctly and to write.