Literacy: How do preschoolers develop reading skills?

by | Apr 17, 2015 | Other News

Teaching literacy in preschool involves helping students develop readiness skills to read and comprehend. As early as two years old, children begin building these skills. Strelitz Early Childhood Center teaches literacy, preparing students for kindergarten and the school years ahead, in a variety of ways.

Encouraging conversation
From babble to bubbly conversation, at age two, the emphasis is on developing expressive and receptive language skills. Teachers facilitate conversations with and between children. They help students join vocabulary into phrases and use a lot of verbal direction.

Book awareness and reading aloud
Reading to students is a primary way of developing pre-reading skills. Through Read Alouds at Strelitz, children learn to associate oral language with the written word and start to develop auditory discrimination and memory skills. Read Alouds are interactive, where teachers choose appropriate age books and offer opportunities during reading for students to make predictions. Books have repetitive phrases, which children recite. Oversized board books are often used so illustrations are visible, encouraging children to express their thoughts about the pictures, as well as to become aware of how to orient and turn its pages.

The Strelitz preschool has a library of books accompanied by audio CDs. Children learn to listen for the sound that signals the turning of the page. Repeating familiar nursery rhymes, while integrating finger plays and using felt storyboards helps develop expressive language and sequencing skills. This is an important precursor to reading. When a two-year-old retells a story he has heard, he is on his way to being a reader.

In the three-year-old program, teachers expand upon Read Alouds, maintaining classroom libraries that reflect current units. Added to this experience is the Mystery Reader program, where family members and friends are invited into the classroom to read favorite stories. At this stage, language development expands through sharing experiences and initiating conversations with peers during circle time. Students build auditory discrimination and memory skills as they retell or act out stories, repeat rhymes and learn to participate in the language of songs. Using table-top manipulatives for matching and sequencing, students also develop visual discrimination and memory skills, all tools for reading readiness.

Word identification
Three year olds are able to identify their names in writing as well as their friends’ names, and some can identify beginning letter sounds and connect them to their letter symbols. Teachers introduce writing centers with various writing and drawing implements, allowing students to experiment with writing letters. At this stage, they can describe and dictate captions for their artwork, and learn the concept that “writing is talk written down.”

Phonemic sequencing
As children move into the four-year-old Pre-K program, their involvement with the written word becomes more active than passive. They also become proficient at identifying the letters of the alphabet and associating their sounds with the symbols. Teachers use a phonemic sequencing program that introduces the sounds of consonant pairs as well as vowel sounds which are grouped into smile, open and round sounds. Students learn the concept of joining consonant and letter sounds to create recognizable words, with some developing a sight word vocabulary.

Creative drawing and writing
Teachers maintain “print rich” classrooms with libraries that include fiction and nonfiction selections. Through the use of “Handwriting without Tears” concepts, students learn to form letters and refine their grip. With well-stocked writing centers and opportunities for creative drawing, some students begin to write using inventive spelling as they create captions for their artwork. With pre-reading skills in place, four year olds are primed to learn to read.

To quote Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Hebrew Academy of Tidewater Konikoff Center of Learning and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center preschool is accredited by the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and is recognized as such by the Virginia Board of Education. It is also a founding member of RAVSAK. Serving students from preschool through fifth grade, the school is also a recipient agency of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Tidewater Jewish Foundation and the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula.

To learn more about Hebrew Academy and the Strelitz Early Childhood Center preschool, contact Carin Simon, director of admissions, at 757-424-4327 or

by Lorna Orleans,
Strelitz Early Childhood Center preschool director