What Are Pre-Reading Skills and Why Are They Important in Learning to Read

Pretty often parents ask me if their child is “on track,” or “advance,” while detailing their child’s ability to read letters in the alphabet, use “advance” vocabulary words or understand more than one language! After these anecdotes, is always the question, “how can I teach my child to read?”


While I always stress that children learn and develop at their own pace and the pace may change through the course of their childhood and be different across different skill set, there are some early or pre-reading skills that young children develop that help them to learn to read and that family members can support at home! These skills are the foundation to which learning to read occurs and the examples above are positive demonstrations of some of these pre-reading skills.

First, what is reading? This honestly is one of those “chicken or the egg,” questions in the education world. Depending who you ask and their philosophy the answer can be different.

But in the interest of simplicity, and this purpose of this post, reading is making meaning from text. What this means is that reading is not just sounding out letters or saying the words on paper. Instead, reading is one’s ability to understand what the text is “saying” i.e., comprehension.

Unlike learning a language, children do not learn to read naturally. This is why without much effort, your child may learn to speak any language within their home setting.

What are pre-reading skills? The phrase pre-reading skills are often interchanged with other phrases such as emergent reading skills, reading readiness, early literacy, pre-literacy skills and early reading.

Essentially, when educators, reading specialist or literacy advisers discuss pre-reading they mean the early skills children have which are essential for reading development. There are many pre-reading skills, but the one’s that are the strongest predictors of reading readiness include interest and motivation to read, oral language and narrative skills, book and print awareness, phonemic awareness and letter knowledge.

Why are pre-reading skills important? Because as children learn to read, they must draw on a backpack of skills and knowledge that help not only decode the text but also make meaning from it. Also, trying to teach a child who has not demonstrated a grasp on pre-reading skills to read can lead to frustration and anxiety for the young child—it isn’t developmentally appropriate.

What pre-reading skills do you know the most about? Would you like to know about what you can do to build each of these skills?  Let me know in the comments below.

Aminata JallohComment