The Skills Kids Need to Read

As a basic foundation for learning to read and write, kids need strong speaking and listening skills. When you and other adults around your kids encourage them to talk, ask, questions, and use dramatic play, it increases their vocabulary, allows them to hear and practice building sentences, and gives them more knowledge to understand spoken and written language.

There are three skill areas that form the foundation for reading. Kids who develop strong skills in these areas have greater success learning to read:

  • Print knowledge -- an understanding of books, letters, and words.
    For example, understanding that print carries a message, recognizing that people read text rather than pictures, and being aware of how to read a book (right side up, from beginning to end, from left to right, from the top to the bottom of the page).

  • Beginning writing -- first efforts to use print in a meaningful way.
    For example, a child's first efforts to use known letters or approximations of letters to represent written language, such as to attempt to write his or her name, and knowing how text should look: letters grouped together into words with spaces between words.

  • Language awareness -- an understanding of how language works.
    For example, being able to count the words in a spoken sentence and being able to hear the individual sounds in a spoken word.

    Children develop these skills by having many early experiences with language, books, and print. They can have these experiences as part of everyday life, through play, conversation, and a wide range of activities. Young children use play and talk as a way to expand, explore, and make sense of their world. When kids talk about daily tasks and special events, tell stories, sing songs, and scribble, they are laying the groundwork for reading and writing.

    Why kids have trouble
    Why do so many children experience problems learning to read? Many simply do not have enough experiences with language, books, and print. They need more time at home and in their early childhood programs devoted to helping them develop the skills that lead to reading. A lack of developmentally appropriate skill-building at an early age can significantly limit the reading and writing level a child attains.

    A child's intelligence (within a normal range, as measured by standardized tests) does not determine the ease with which he'll learn to read and write. However, for about 5 to 7 percent of kids, a learning disability -- a different way of processing information and learning -- may account for their difficulty learning to read. These children will need additional specialized instruction and support.


  • highlights

    Zika Virus Q&A: 4 Facts for Pregnant Women & Families
    Zika virus is pretty scary. Pregnant or not, learn what steps to take to protect your family from Zika, including travel restrictions and mosquito bite prevention.

    Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
    Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

    Ommm! 5 Meditation & Mindfulness Activities for Families
    Family meditation and mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and promote health and happiness. Learn some fun and easy mindfulness activities for kids, and set them on the path to inner peace!

    Ready for Kindergarten?
    Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

    stay connected

    Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

    Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

    Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

    editor’s picks