Reading is one of life’s most important skills. Literature shows that parent involvement is key to children’s early literacy development. How do you, as parents, help your child to learn this crucial skill? How do you know if your child is ready? This article aims to help you identify signs that your child is ready to begin reading, as well as ways to encourage reading in your daily routine.


5 Critical skills for reading readiness

  1. Print and book awareness

The ability to understand that the print on paper represents words that carry meaning is called ‘print awareness’. This awareness help children learn the connection between written and oral language. There are many ways children can learn print awareness, such as holding a book the correct way; reading from left to right; or differentiating the front from the back of a book.

Here are some activities you can do at home to help your child develop this skill:

  • Show your child where the front and back of the book are, and help them hold the book the correct way.
  • Use your finger to guide your child to ‘read’ from left to right and let your child turn the pages.
  • Point out the names on food packages when shopping in a supermarket.
  • Draw your child’s attention to not just the illustrations but also the words when reading a book.


  1. Know their ABCs

The more your child recognises the letters of the alphabet, letter names and sounds, the more ready they are to begin to read. While this skill is essential in reading, your child does not need to master all letters before they start reading.

Ways to facilitate letter skills:

  • Sing the alphabet song together. Pause at different letters or leave some out for your child to fill them in.
  • Play with alphabet toys such as puzzles, magnetic letters, bathtub letters or an alphabet floor mat.
  • Play letter and sound games and encourage your child to match sounds to the alphabet.
  • Expose your child to both uppercase and lowercase letters.


  1. Listening and retelling

Children with strong listening skills develop a wide vocabulary and make better connections between their experience and the environment. These skills help your child to understand the meanings of words and to relate to them.

Reading together helps strengthen your child’s listening and retelling skills:

  • Read with your child. Have your child on your lap or by your side. Let your child see and interact with the pictures and the story.
  • Read aloud whenever possible. Let your child hear the words and pause to encourage them to join in with familiar stories.
  • Make reading fun and enjoyable. Refrain from using reading as a time to ‘test’ your child’s knowledge.
  • Choose stories that your child enjoys. Let your child pick what to read or show you how they want to interact with the story.


  1. Phonological awareness

This is the awareness of the sound structure of words. Developing this skill helps children understand how sounds combine to make words and will help with reading.

Fun ways to promote phonological awareness:

  • Teach your child rhyming. Read rhyming books, sing nursery rhymes and play rhyming games together (e.g. Pat-a-cake).
  • Tap, clap and stomp to rhythms and music. Use different items such as hand clappers or drums to make it fun.
  • Change the first sound of words in a song (e.g. If you’re flappy and you know it, flap your hands…) – this is super fun with giggles guaranteed!


  1. Interest in reading

Involve everyone in the family and make reading a habit. Create a routine that helps spark and develop your child’s interest in reading. Choose engaging books and make reading interactive. Allow your child to move and act out stories.

Effective reading activities:

  • Keep reading short and simple, but frequent. Toddlers often have short attention spans so reading a short story several times a day works better than a long reading session.
  • A bedtime reading routine is great for ensuring daily reading with your child. It is also a good way to settle your child to sleep.
  • Have your child’s favourite books handy wherever you go (e.g. travelling in a car, eating out in a restaurant).
  • Books with flaps or different textures are good for keeping your child’s hands busy. Books with animals or machines help elicit sounds. Repetitive books and those with recurring items are great to keep your child engaged.


Remember that creating a culture at home that encourages your child’s interest in reading is the most effective way to help your child develop skills in this area. Place your focus on making reading an enjoyable daily activity rather than it being an academic achievement. Depending on your child’s attention span and abilities, begin with 15 minutes of reading per day and increase it slowly. The tips above offer some fun ways to help your child become a happy and confident reader. Try a new activity each week and see what works best for your child.