Reading > Getting ready for reading (Age 3–4)

Getting ready for reading (Age 3–4)

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There are lots of fun and easy ways to help get your child ready to read. The most obvious way is through sharing and enjoying books together, but singing nursery rhymes, playing ‘I spy’ in the car and talking about your child’s day can all help your child to develop important very early reading skills. Here are some simple ideas of things to try with your child.

Things to try with your child

1. Talk together

It might seem odd to suggest something that all parents do with their children every day, but spending time talking to your child about their day, about their play and about things around them encourages the development of speaking and listening skills, so important when children go on to start learning to read.

2. Talk about books, words and pictures

Before you start reading a book, talk about the title, the pictures on the cover (front and back). Look through the pictures together and ask your child what they think the story might be about.

3. Talk about stories and events

As you read and when you’ve finished, sometimes ask questions about the story. 'What was your favourite bit? What do you think about that? What would you do?' Get your child to ask you questions too. Don’t overdo it though – otherwise you can lose the thread of the plot.

4. All join in

Start asking your child to join in with bits that are repeated in stories, e.g. ‘Run run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man!’. Traditional stories, like The Gingerbread Man, are really good for this and children will love doing the voices!

5. Find your favourites and add to them

Children love to listen to their favourite books over and over again and to remember some parts by heart. That’s fine as enjoyment and memory play a key part in learning to read. Add to their list of favourites by reading stories of all kinds, rhymes, poetry and information books too.

6. Retell stories

Sometimes after you have shared a story, ask your child to retell it to you. Help by asking 'What happened first? What next? And then what?' Can you remember what happens at the end?! Encourage them to use plenty of expression.

7. Read everywhere you go

Read on the move and show your child how you read words everywhere you go too. Point out words they might recognise, including signs and logos in the street or on labels.

8. Listen to and sing songs and rhymes

Singing lots of songs and nursery rhymes helps your child to hear the sounds in words and build up a bank of known favourites. Play with words and sounds and make up nonsense rhymes in songs or nursery rhymes they know. Encourage them to join in.

9. Remember when...

Compare events in stories or information books with things you’ve done together, so your child starts to make connections between these things and their own experiences: 'That’s just like when we went to Thorpe Park. Do you remember? Dad was scared...'

Early reading skills

1. Talk about letters and sounds

If you draw attention to letters and sounds, your child will begin to notice them as well. Knowing the letter sounds is a very important first step in early phonics teaching so start talking about these at the earliest opportunity.
For more help with letter sounds, check out our phonics sound chart.

2. Signs that your child may be ready to begin learning early reading skills

There are no hard and fast rules about this but if your child can do these things then it may be that they are ready to begin learning early reading skills:

  • listen to a story and retell bits of it
  • recognise some letter sounds (like the first sound in their name)
  • recognise some letter sounds (like the first sound in their name)
  • match some words (like Mum) when they see them in different places
  • concentrate for 5-10 minutes.

Why not read one of our eBooks together now? Or take a peek at some gorgeous picture books.

Starting to read (4–5) >

You may also be interested in:

Read with Oxford: Stage 1

Read with Oxford: Stage 1 books are for children who are ready to start learning to read. They will enjoy listening to stories and will be beginning to recognise letter sounds and read simple words.
Read with Oxford: Stage 1 >

Activity: Missing letter

Colour in the squares that have a ‘t’ in. Which capital letter can you see?
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More free activities for Age 3–4 >

Video: Story time: Cat Naps by Julia Donaldson

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