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How To Help Preschoolers Learn To Read: Preschool Reading Milestones

Around the ages of four and five, your child is likely to start developing some basic reading skills. Learning to read is a process, with different developmental milestones along the way.  In this article we explore some preschool reading milestones      

In early preschool, the child learns phonemic awareness as well as some sight words and will know how to spell their name and recognize the letters of the alphabet. In late preschool, they can match some letters to sounds and start developing awareness of syllables.

Parents can monitor children for preschool reading milestones including but not limited to: looking through picture books, greater attention during story telling sessions, singing of the alphabet song, identity the first letter of their name, learn that writing differs from drawing a picture and many more.

If you have a four-year-old, you would have discovered that your child isn’t a toddler anymore, but a full-fledged preschooler, and like many parents, you may be wondering what reading developmental milestones await you and your four-year-old, particularly as kindergarten looms in the not-so-distant future.  

Although every child develops at his or her own unique pace, this is a general outline of the preschool reading milestones required on the road to reading success.

Preschool Reading Milestones

Key Preschool Reading milestones and a checklist for reading development:

Early Preschool (Age 3) Kids usually begin to:

  • independently look at picture books
  • listen to longer stories in books that are read aloud
  • repeat and tell a familiar story
  • sing the alphabet song with prompting and cues
  • make symbols that look like lettering
  • identify the first letter in their name
  • learn that writing is not the same as drawing a picture
  • emulate the action of reading a book aloud

Late Preschool (Age 4) Kids usually begin to:

  • identify familiar signs and logos, especially on signs and packages
  • recognize words that jingle or rhyme
  • name some of the letters of the alphabet (a good goal to strive for is 15–18 uppercase letters) We have resources here
  • identify the letters in their names and can write their names
  • name letters or sounds at the beginning of words
  • match some letters to their sounds
  • develop an awareness of syllables
  • use familiar letters to try to write words
  • understand that lettering is read from left to right, top to bottom
  • repeat stories that have been read to them

Through playing, singing, and learning, your preschooler will gain skills that ultimately help them learn to read, write, build their math and science skills, and become successful students. These “pre-skills” lay the foundation for the future.

They also learn “school readiness” skills to help them grasp the concept of school routines, working in groups and preparing them how to be students.

how to teach sight words

In order to build reading skills, your preschooler:

not only develops literacy skills during the scheduled “reading” time but teachers use other methods to help make connections between objects and words, and words and letters.

Preschoolers will:

  • recite rhymes, songs, and poems
  • be surrounded by words and labeled objects in the classroom
  • recognize letters and their sounds
  • read, listen to, and talk about books

Activities that prepare young children for learning to read emphasize:

  • counting and concept of numbers
  • names, shapes, and sounds of letters
  • phonological and phonemic awareness
  • supportive and independent literacy activities
  • We have loads of free resources here for download

Phonological awareness is the ability for the child to hear and say rhyming words as well as being able to divide words into sounds and recognize that groups of words have the same sound at the start e.g (cat, clown, can) or at the end e.g (fish, dish, wish).

Phonemic awareness allows children to “sound out” the words and become aware that printed letters represent language sounds.

You can check out the offer we have below for 373 pages of worksheets games and activities to help pre-school, kindergarten and onwards develop their reading and literacy skills

Ways for Parents to Encourage Their Child to Read:

Not only in education is reading essential but also in the modern business world where digital communication takes place over emails and text-based message systems so the ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning and to effectively communicate is vital.

Here are some tips for parents to encourage their pre-schooler to read:

Dont worry to much if you need to work on the Preschool Reading Milestones a little longer, or be too happy if you don’t! Students will develop in their own good time. Your role is to guide them on their path not lead them.

  • Develop oral language: Read a story then ask your child to recall their favorite parts of the story.  This encourages children to have fun picking out words.
  • Read every day: More exposure to literature, more reading will become part of daily life as your preschooler is introduced to new information, concepts, and phonemic awareness with every story
  • Have available reading material and encourage a wide variety of topics
  • Instill a reading habit by having a number of interesting books and other reading items available for them. 
  • Some practical ways to ensure your pre-schooler will always have something to read is by reading menus, movie names and roadside signs.
  • Create a Special and Inviting Reading Place:
  • Keep books and magazines on well-organized and inviting shelves for easy reach and make sure reading areas have good lighting.
  • Create a cozy reading corner, and encourage your child to use it by setting up “reading corner time” each day.
  • Decorate the space with your child’s artwork, change and add new books to the shelves.
  • Encourage Creativity: Kids love to read and share their own creations with friends and family so encourage them to make posters or collages by setting up a writing and art center.  Ask your kids to act out the stories that they read or hear.
  • Use technology: technology has a positive impact on reading and by allowing your child to use tools such as tablet e-readers, smartphones and computers will build their self-esteem through applied technology. we have online games here
  • Let them use e-readers: these readers are adaptive to their reading abilities i.e larger fonts or fewer lines on a page and even adaptive to suit the child with learning disabilities who learns differently.
  • Allow them to choose what they want to read: children who have a choice in what they read, will be more absorbed in what they are reading, and will be able to recall the information more readily.
  • Help them choose age-appropriate books:  choose books or stories on e-readers with topics that will interest them.
  • Make use of gadgets and creative apps:  install useful reading apps on smartphones and tablets to allow children access to safe spaces where they can do various literacy activities.
  • Read together: Make time to read together by sitting and reading your own books or read aloud to your preschooler or ask him or her to read to you.
  • Be interested in your child’s reading: always give genuine praise for their efforts as well as feedback and they will try their best to become good readers.
How To Help Preschoolers Learn To Read: Preschool Reading Milestones

Besides books, your preschooler might also enjoy:

  • magazines (for kids)
    • audiobooks
    • postcards, e-mails, and text messages from relatives
    • photo albums or scrapbooks
    • newspapers
    • comic books
    • the Internet
    • beginning reading and alphabet games on a computer/tablet
    • magnetized alphabet letters
    • e-readers or e-books

Reading Activities for Ages 3-5

What Word Starts With…

One of the first steps to reading is the letter-sound connection. Play a guessing game about what letter does a word start with eg “p-p-p-pirate” or “m-m-mommy”. Once your child guesses one correctly, see how many words he or she knows that start with the same letter.

Your Child the Author:

At age 4, your pre-schooler will be interested in talking so take this opportunity to write a book together. Start with something simple, like describing a fun day at the beach or visiting grandparents. Write out one or two of your child’s sentences on a page, then, read the story to them and let them illustrate it.

Take Letters Outside:

Encourage your child to make letters out of PlayDoh, or the next time you are out in the park or on the beach take turns writing letters in the sand, clay or dirt,

Just the Facts:

Find books or articles on your pre-schoolers favorite topics like cars, dinosaurs, dogs etc, and in this way get your child interested in nonfiction books specially designed for children which will have plenty of pictures.

Online Literacy for Ages 3-5:  

There are many words and letter games as well as reading apps for computers, smartphones, or tablets that can allow your child to have fun whilst learning.

How To Help Preschoolers Learn To Read: Preschool Reading Milestones


From birth, babies and children, gather skills they will use in reading, and the years between 3 and 5 known as the preschooler years, are most critical to the reading growth of a child. 

Keeping in mind that children develop at different paces and spend varying amounts of time at each stage it is not that easy to allocate a specific literacy level of the pre-schooler or to set Preschool Reading Milestones

  • Most preschoolers will know the names of their favorite books and recall familiar words and phrases, they will pretend to read books, and know the difference between a letter and a number.
  • Some preschoolers will recognize and write some letters and numbers, will be able to name letters that begin with certain words and, be able to makeup rhymes.
  • Other preschoolers will even predict what will happen next in a story, read and write their own names and retell stories that they know.

There are numerous resources for parents and teachers to assist pre-school children with language and book reading to build an environment for reading milestones to happen.

Reading not only gives you the opportunity for close bonding with your child, but it also opens the door into a world of literacy that your child is about to enter. 

 you can access some other resources deigned for preschool here.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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