Pre-Reading Activities That Help Kids Love Reading!

Pre-Reading activities pin

Pre-reading activities are some of the most important things you can do as a parent to help your child succeed. 

Studies have shown that students’ prior knowledge coming into reading does make a huge difference.

But unfortunately, pre-reading activities are also some of the worst things you can do when it comes to preparing a child to read.

How can that be?

The difference lies in how early you start, how aggressive you come across, and what kind of activities you are doing during the pre-reading stage. 

Pre-Reading Activity Cautionary Tale

Mom and young child with book
Just this week I listened to a homeschool mom share a story of how she started to teach pre-reading skills to her 2-year-old. 

With the very best of intentions, she tried to point out letters, teach sounds, and encourage her child to blend sounds during storytime.

I started to feel physically sick as she was telling the story because I understood how wildly developmentally inappropriate that was. 

Apparently, these reading lessons went on for some time because the child is now 5 years old. She still doesn’t know how to read, and she will actually refuse to sit down and listen to her mother read her a book. 

Think about that. She’s 5 years old and will not sit down to listen to a story from her mother. 

The mother says that the child is convinced she will try to get the child to read part of the book. 

Significant damage has been done to that child’s natural flow of learning because she was pushed too hard and too early. The result is that the process of reading will likely be significantly longer and more difficult for this particular child.

Early Reading Support Is A Double Edged Sword 

Little girl next to stack of books reading

I share that story not to scare you, but to encourage you to keep your eye on the goal – which should be to raise a child who loves to read. 

Be sure that the child is ready and always, always make it fun and stress-free. Encouraging words and smiles should be all that your child sees.

If you meet resistance, pull back immediately. These pre-reading activities should never feel like a chore. If that happens, approach your child gently the next time, and try to adjust what is frustrating them.

Again, the main idea is not to raise good readers – it is to raise passionate readers!

The activities below are designed to encourage that love of reading and to fan the flame of learning!

10 Pre-Reading Strategies For A Solid Start In Literacy

There is a lot here, and I don’t recommend trying to do them all at once.

After going through the list, jot down on a piece of paper the first steps you want to take – preferably the things you think your child will respond to the best.

Once you have included that into your normal routine, add a couple more, and so on.

1. Go To The Library Like It’s Your Job

kid looking at book in library

Exposing your child to a large volume of children’s books on a regular basis is probably the best pre-reading activity you could possibly do.

Get yourself a sturdy bag that will hold a lot of books and tell your kid that it’s library day. Explore the children’s section together and fill that bag up to the brim!

Do your best to make library day a regular thing for your family.

Weekly trips would be best, but if you can only make it twice a month or once a month, that’s great too. 

Your child will learn that books are like candy – something to delight in and look forward to! They will learn to love reading and be super motivated to read by themselves!

2. Read Aloud To Your Kid Like It’s Your Second Job

mom reading to pre-reading level kid

Take those books home and read to your child!

Read to them as much and as often as you possibly can. Your child will absolutely love spending time with you getting lost in a new favorite picture book.

This will not only bond you even tighter to your child – it will also increase their imagination, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and eventually reading comprehension! 

Setting aside enough time for reading books to your child is like priming them to take off like a rocket when they begin reading lessons.

It is truly one of the most effective ways and one of the easiest ways you can help your child be successful with reading.

****With a younger child take the time to show them the parts of a book: front book cover, back cover, pages, table of contents, etc. 

3. Get Lost In A Book Yourself

Mom reading a novel

A great way to motivate kids to read is to show them that you value reading for yourself. 

Show them that this essential skill is not just for scrolling Facebook or reading recipes!

Find a good novel or nonfiction book for yourself at the library, and let your child find you curled up in chair with it. Let them see that you are deep in your book and lost in the story. 

Your child will naturally want to be like you and excitedly look forward to building their own reading skills!

Set the example that you are a family that reads.

4. Run Your Finger Along The Words

As you read to your child, run your finger along the lines as you read. 

This simple task is the best way to naturally show kids that we read from left to right.

Without even realizing it, they will also start to internalize print awareness (letters make words)!

5. Page Turner Duties

turning pages

Ask your child if they are prepared to take on the duty of official page turner during storytime.

This is another fun way to show your child that we read books from left to right.

They will also naturally start to follow along with the words as they anticipate needing to turn the page. 

And what kid doesn’t want to have a special, authoritative job like page turner?!

6. Have Your Child Dictate A Story To You

Mom and young girl at computer

Children naturally have tons of imagination and creativity for stories…but they often lack the spelling and writing skills to put it on paper.

Tell your child that you will type whatever they say and then print it out.

Kids will be delighted to have all the fun of writing a story without any of the writing! With my own child, we like to add just 2-3 sentences to the story per day.

While their imagination goes wild and your hands fly across the keyboard, they will begin to see that their own words are being represented with letters. Those letters form words on the screen. And those words are strung together in something called sentences.

They are naturally building phonological awareness skills and the beginning blocks of literacy!

7. Make Friends With Poetry

Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat image

While you’re at the library, pick up any and all rhyming books that you can find. 

The sillier and funnier the better!

Kids naturally are drawn to poems, which is great because they offer some amazing pre-reading benefits. 

Point out to your child the rhyming words and how the ends of the word sound the same. Try reading a few lines of the book and see if the child can finish with the correct rhyming word. 

Keep the mood light and help the child as much as needed. You can even make up some of your own rhymes for them to finish.

For example: I will put my hat on the …..[bat, cat, mat, etc.].

Recognizing ryhming words is a wonderful skill to have as they begin to read. It will help them to anticipate words as well as recognize word families such as /at/, /it/, and /ot/.

8. Leap Frog DVDs Are Your Other New Friends


Leap Frog DVDs are a super low-key way to teach kids letters, letter sounds, and even early blending skills.

I used to pop in The Letter Factory DVD in my car a couple of times a week, and the catchy song really helped my kids to learn and retain letter sounds. 

To this day, I will still sing a bar of that song to remind them of a letter sound. It is amazing to me to see that hearing the song provides almost instant recall of the letter sound.

I highly recommend this as part of your low stress pre-reading strategy.

After seeing the videos a few times, you may also start pointing out the environmental print that is all around them in the form of signs and logos.

Play a game to see how many letters they can find around your house, while driving in the car, or while walking through a store!

****Consider getting visual aids to hang on a wall in your house with the alphabet on it. Your kids will be so excited to show off their new letter knowledge!

9. Play A Silly Word Game 

Game image

Tell your child that you are going to play a game with them.

You are going to slowly say a word, and they have to tell you what the word is. 

You will slowly say /c/ – /a/ – /t/. And your child will shout “CAT!”

Continue with other short words, and once that is mastered work towards 4 and 5 letter words. 

If your child is having fun and enjoying the game, ask them to try and break a word down for you to guess.

This game may seem silly to your child, but what it is really doing is teaching phonemic awareness. Which is a big fancy words for being able to hear the separate sounds in a word.

This will be a huge piece of background knowledge to have when your child beings reading letter sounds and trying to blend them together. 

10. Start Building A Library Now Of Easy Phonics Readers

easy phonics readers for young readers

As you are diligently doing all of these pre reading activities, it is likely that your child is going to become very interested in learning to read.

They may pick up a library book though and get frustrated with all the sight words and advanced content meant for older students. 

Be ready for that moment with a library of easy phonics readers

You want to have books on hand that they can start breaking down and reading when the time is right. Keep that fire for reading going!

More Ideas to Develop Pre-Reading Skills

If this all sounds a little overwhelming, I want to offer that there is a fantastic pre-reading curriculum on the market.

All About Reading Pre Reading does all the above work for you and all you have to do is open the book and go. 

We have used it before and my kids have loved it.

Keep in mind, it is not entirely necessary. You can teach many of these things yourself, but if it seems like too much, I would definitely look into All About Reading.

If you want to know more, check out my full review of All About Reading Pre Reading.

Recap: Pre-Reading Exercises To Build Literacy Skills

family reading together with kids

I know the reading teachers and English teachers of the world may make you feel like you can’t produce successful readers without help or a degree, but you can!

In some ways, you may even do a better job!

At home, you can keep your eye on the big picture as you encourage your child to move at their own pace.

You can be one-on-one with them, customizing every moment and every experience. 

I have personally taught my three girls to read and I can assure you that it is one of the most rewarding experiences!

What pre-reading activities have you done with your child? Which were the most valuable?

Please share in the comments!

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