Pre-reading & writing skills

Many parents have very high expectations of their children picking up reading and writing skills quickly at school, pre-primary or even kindergarten. This can lead to frustration and disappointment when they discover that being able to recite the alphabet and write your name doesn’t necessarily mean a child has grasped the concepts and skills required to read new text or write intelligibly.



In fact a lot of different things have to click in order for reading and writing to begin.

These include the development of oral language skills and what are usually referred to as pre-reading and pre-writing skills. Playgroup can be an ideal environment for shared learning experiences. All children will benefit from activities to enhance these skills, these particular activities are suited to children around four years but you can engage in a lot of them from early on.

Here are some suggestions for activities with literacy skills in mind:

Oral Language Development
Puppets: children learn to express their feeling and invent dialogue and conversations with other puppets
– Simple board games: children learn to follow instructions, move in a set direction, sequence ideas or predict outcomes
Songs and rhymes: enrich children’s vocabulary, fun and nonsense use of words, appreciate the rhythm of speech
– “Tell me…” opportunities: talking through play experiences, “what do you think will happen if I…?’, “What is happening in this picture?”
– Dress-Ups and role play: children gain the confidence to speak in that role; can copy the language of adults
– Enjoy simple free outings: talk about what is going to happen, take photos and make a photo book so children can retell their experience

Pre-Reading Skills
The very best way for children to develop the skills necessary for reading is to have a love of books and a strong desire to WANT to read! Reading lots at home and at playgroup will encourage this.
Sharing stories: use stories with repeated sections so all children can join in
– Picture books: use pictues clues and guided questions such as “who do you think is coming in the door next?”Threading
– Books with simple text: point to the words as you read so children learn that written symbols have meaning and the word go left to write and top to bottom
– Recalling and retelling: use nursery rhyme books or very simple stories with few words. When the child knows the story really well, he can ‘read’ the text by heart

Pre-writing skills
Children need to develop control of fine muscle groups (fingers and wrist) and hand/eye coordination:
– Drawing: provide lots of opportunities using a variety of drawing and writing implements such as pencils, crayons, chalk, paint brushes etc
– Threading: macaroni onto pipe cleaners, beads onto shoe laces etc.
– Cutting: provide child-safe scissors and lots of old magazines, when the cutting skill is more developed, play games such as cutting pictures in half, cutting along lines or cutting something into smaller pieces
– Gluing: use brushes (bigger ones for smaller children and smaller ones for older children) to glue shapes such as pasta, pictures or beads
– Manipulation activities: playdough, slime and clay are great ones for this. Practice rolling playdough into “sausages” or little balls or patting into flat pancakes. Add sticks, popsticks or macaroni to be pushes into the dough
Rice play:  is a great way for children to playfully develop the fine-motor skills required for writing i.e. picking up tiny grains, passing handfuls from hand to hand, or scooping and pouring.
Puzzles: completing puzzles helps develop essential visual perceptual skills that are required for handwriting and other important daily activities later on.

Remember – play is meant to be fun! Don’t get anxious if your child isn’t interested in certain activities. Many of these ideas are readily adapted to the sand pit, with blocks, a train set and even ride on cars – pretty much whatever your child loves to play with. Just use opportunities as they come along to encourage your child to have a go at something new. And if you attend playgroup, be sure to have a variety of activities and play materials available over the course of the year.

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