How to teach pre-schoolers to read and write
When teaching pre-schoolers to read and write it is important to remember that at this age they learn through experience. They need to see you reading and writing yourself. You need to read to your children as much as possible. Use your finger to scroll underneath the words so that they begin to differentiate letters from pictures. Point to words that are illustrated in the pictures too because at this age all they can see are different shapes and colours. You need to help them see the shapes of letters and words as distinct and separate from other shapes.
It may sound simple but re-learn your alphabet taking care to learn the phonetics as this is likely to be the way they are taught at school. There are some fabulous resources out there such as wall freezes or flash cards. Each letter sound has an action which really helps visual learners identify the letter shape with the corresponding sound. If your child can recognise letters and their sounds then you are half-way there to getting your child to read. Blending the sounds together to form words is very hard and can be frustrating for the child who is only just mastering the art of recognising the letters. Be patient and lavish your praise on them for whatever they manage to achieve. Don’t leave them struggling for too long, sound the word out with them, help them look at the illustrations to see if there is a picture clue to what the word may be and if they still can’t get it – tell them. This is not “cheating”, it is helping them recognise ways of blending and using illustrations in books as clues to what the words may say.
Label their drinks bottles with their names. Getting them to recognise their own name and to write it is the best way of getting them interested in writing. Any marks a pre-schooler makes on paper, or chalk boards or with water on the floor is considered writing. We don’t have to recognise it as distinct words but just encourage them to tell us what they have “written”. Make sure they see you writing too, write lists, notes, your diary – anything as long as they see you “mark-making”.
Remember they are pre-schoolers, they have a life-time of school ahead of them. Give them a taste for life and learning through everyday experiences. Reading and writing are really important but it doesn’t have to be confined to a book and paper and pencil. Take your pre-schoolers out, look at the world with fresh eyes – there is writing everywhere from signs to man-hole covers. Point out letters wherever and whenever you can. Get then to “write” using anything you have – make letter shapes with your bodies, with bits of twig, with a paintbrush and water. Anything!
Learning is fun. As soon as we remember that your pre-schooler will surprise you at how fast they pick up reading and writing. Just have fun with it!