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Literacy Skills for a 3 Year Old

by Stacey Chaloux, studioD

Now that your child has reached preschool age, you may be eager to work on getting him ready to read. Before he can pick up those story books, there are a few key elements of reading readiness he will need. These skills are just emerging in a 3 year old, so they are ideas you can work on in his everyday routine and play.

Concepts About Print

The first thing your preschooler will need to attain in order to become a reader is a familiarity with books. Educators often refer to this as "concepts about print," or a group of skills that include being able to hold the book the correct way, understanding that print reads from left to right and top to bottom and recognizing that words are made up of letters and that those words have meaning. Most children pick up on these skills simply by being read to on a regular basis. It is important to set aside a time each day to read with your child, and it is best if she sits on your lap where she can see the book with you. Run your finger along the words as you read them aloud to help her understand that the print is what gives the story.

Learning Letters

Most parents recognize the importance of learning the letters of the alphabet in order to become a reader, and while it is an essential piece of literacy, it is only one component of reading readiness. Letters should be learned in meaningful ways, instead of simple memorization tasks, according to Scholastic. For example, help him recognize the letters of his name first and search for them while you are out running errands. Point out familiar signs and see if he can recognize what they say or any of the letters he sees. Label things that belong to him, so he will begin to recognize his name in print. Offer him magnetic letters to play with on the refrigerator, and help him begin to recognize other letters as he explores them.

Playing with Sounds

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear the different sounds in words, and phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are made up of several small sounds. Both are important to a child's ability to read print, so there are fun ways you can practice them with your 3 year old. Find books or songs that have lots of rhyming words and point them out to your child -- "Do you hear how 'cat' and 'hat' sound alike?" Have your preschooler try to list other words that end with the same sound by changing the beginning sound, like "bat," "rat" or "sat." Don't be afraid to make up nonsense words and be silly while you play with sounds. You can also choose a beginning sound and see how many things you can find around your house that start with that sound. For example, tell your child to look for things with the /b/ sound, and help her gather a collection of balls, boxes, books and bags.

Building Vocabulary

Besides understanding the letters and sounds that make up words, preschoolers also need to have a large listening and speaking vocabulary, or words that they both understand and use. The best way to build vocabulary is through experiences, so it is important to expose your child to a variety of settings. For example, an outing to the zoo provides many opportunities to use words he doesn't say in everyday situations. Point out new things and name them as you take a walk around your neighborhood. Books and stories also can give children rich experiences that they would not otherwise have. For example, a child living in a big city may not have a chance to learn about farm equipment except through a story, so make reading an important part of your daily routine and discuss the new words and images he encounters.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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