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6 by 6 Ready to Read —
Six Skills by Six Years

Parents, here are six skills you can help your child develop by the time they reach the age of 6 that will help them be more prepared to read.

Have fun with books

The first step in learning to read is wanting to learn. Choose books that you and your children will enjoy. Use expression when you read. When your children see you reading for pleasure, they will want to be readers too. Children who enjoy books and are interested in them will naturally want to learn to read. So, find the right time when you and your children are in the mood, and enjoy reading — together.

Children who like to read are more likely to become good readers, So:

  • Get a free library card and visit the library regularly
  • Have pretend reading sessions — get picture books with little or no text and ask children to read to you
  • Take books wherever you go
  • Check out books that encourage searching for objects in illustrations
  • Give books as gifts

Notice print all around you

Let your children handle books and help you turn pages. Babies will even put them in their mouths! Point to words on the page as you read so your children understand that we read from left to right, front to back, and top to bottom — not all cultures do. Point out signs and printed words wherever you go. Have books, newspapers and magazines throughout your home. Children need many experiences handling books in their everyday world to understand that print is used in multiple ways for a variety of purposes.

Try some of these activities with your child:

  • Use puzzles that have pictures and letters or words
  • Point out that a book has an author and an illustrator
  • Let children help you make a shopping list and match the words on your list to those on the products
  • As you write, tell your children what you are doing
  • Let children help read recipes as you cook or bake

Talk, talk, talk

Point to objects and name them. Name feelings, too. When you come to a new word in a book, talk about its meaning. Children hear and learn more new words when you read books, and a larger vocabulary is linked to greater reading success. Use lots of language with young children, even when they don’t understand. The more words children hear, the larger their vocabulary becomes. Children hear more new words when you read books — about three times more than in normal conversation.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Talk about the pictures in books and let your child identify things you see
  • Find real items of pictures seen in a book
  • Create and attach label to items in your home: doors, chairs, windows, etc.
  • Have children describe the illustrations in books
  •  Introduce new words and explain their meanings, rather than substituting with familiar words

Tell stories about everything

Talk about your day to show that all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Let children help tell the story or act it out. Choose books without words and encourage your children to tell the story from the pictures. Ask questions when you read, such as, “What do you think will happen next?” Understanding the sequence of events in a story will help children’s comprehension.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Plan your day by talking about what you’ll do first, next and last
  • Use stringing beads or other toys where you create a sequence and encourage children to re-create the sequence
  • Sort items (buttons, block, etc.) by size shape and color
  • Talk about activities in the order they occurred
  • Ask your child about their day
  • Practice numbers by counting things you see and do during the day

Look for letters everywhere

Children need to know shapes before they can learn letters. Hang shape mobiles above your baby’s crib, read books about shapes and play with shape puzzles and sorting games. Talk about letters and letter sounds in objects and words that your children know. Learning letters is more than just singing the alphabet song. Children need to recognize that letters are different from each other, that even the same letter can look different (upper and lowercase), that letters are made up of shapes, that each letter has a name and that it represents specific sounds.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Choose a “letter of the day” and listen for words with that sound
  • Use words that all begin with the same sound (alliteration), such as “the baby bounced bravely by”
  • Make “alphabet soup” by gluing letters onto paper
  • Point out shapes you see in the environment
  • Make letter shapes and letters out of clay, in shaving cream or with fingerpaint

Take time to rhyme

Read Mother Goose rhymes and sing with your children. Play with words and help your children sound them out. Rhymes and music help children learn to hear the smaller sounds of language. Recognizing when words rhyme and hearing the beginning sounds of words are important early literacy skills. Taking words apart and putting them back together again —and that’s exactly what we do when we sing! — also helps develop early literacy skills.

Try these activities with your child:

  • Sing with your child, even if you think you can’t carry a tune
  • Make silly words that sound alike
  • Select a “sound of the day” and have fun naming your children’s stuffed animals or dolls with names that begin with that day’s sound
  • Clap words out into their parts or syllables
  • Play word games that change the first sounds in words