Boost your preschooler’s reading and spelling skills using these research proven tips


A 2015 study showed that reading often and early to children has proven to help increase brain activity and language comprehension abilities required in the development of early childhood reading skills. Most educators and parents today understand the importance of reading to children and also empowering them with the early ability to read. As parents, we can support our preschoolers’ learning potential and better prepare them to read by considering the following research based pre-reading tips.

Tip #1 – Expand your Preschooler’s Spoken Vocabulary

A recent study from Macquarie University has shown that a child’s oral or spoken vocabulary is directly linked to his or her ability to learn to read new words. The researchers found that “when children have heard a new word spoken, and know how it is pronounced and what it means, they are then able to process this word with more speed when they have to read it for the first time”. This study is important as it shows that parents should start to help their preschool children grow their spoken vocabulary much earlier so to give them a head start when they’re ready to learn how to read.

There are many ways to help your preschool kids expand their spoken vocabulary. Most effective and simple ways are reading more books to them, conversing with them regularly, playing word games and spending time to patiently explain new word meanings to them in the context that they can understand. A good place to start is this nice and short 4 point guide from Parents.com on how to improve your preschooler’s vocabulary.

Tip #2 – Expose your Preschooler to Printed and Written Words Early

It has been commonly accepted that children don’t learn how to spell until they can start to associate sounds from the spoken word with how words are spelt. However, a recent research from Washington University in St. Louis now suggests that children as young as 3 years already are starting to understand and learn the rules of writing and reading. The results of the study showed that “children begin to learn about the statistics of written language, for example about which letters often appear together and which letters appear together less often, before they learn how letters represent the sounds of a language.”

The findings of this study is important as it confirms that children begin to learn “what words look like”, an aspect of spelling, at a much earlier age than we expected. Parents can help to build this knowledge of the “printed word” for their preschoolers by supporting word recognition during reading time, labelling household items and going through printed words of things important to the children e.g. names, favourite movie etc. Here’s a nice list of guidelines to promote print awareness in preschoolers from ReadingRockets.org.

Tip #3 – Encourage Invented Spelling in your Preschooler

Researchers from Mount Allison University and Carleton University suggests that “self-directed attempts to represent words in print” or what can be defined as invented spelling by young children can help them become better readers. In their study, they found that students who did more invented spelling tended to have stronger literacy skills one year after the observation commenced. The researchers believe this is because invented spelling is “an engaging and cognitively strenuous activity” and “it helps bring together all the skills kids use when they learn how to read which includes alphabetic knowledge and phonemic awareness”.

This study is important because not only does it draw and strengthen the correlation between writing and reading but also that word-level work can help in the development of early childhood literacy. The best advice for parents here is to increase exposure to the printed word by reading more to them. More importantly, they should encourage more writing. It’s essential that they do not discourage their kids by over-correcting or emphasising on mistakes. The trick is to guide them to discover the right spelling over time by revisiting the words during reading time and when they’re engaged in writing exercises. Here’s a comprehensive guide to invented spelling from GreatSchools.org.

Bonus infographic – How to help your child become a great reader

Here’s a very useful and practical infographic on how to introduce reading to your young children. It’s from our lovely friends at Mom Loves Best. Their ten tips on how to encourage reading make a wonderful addition to our blog. Learn more about the benefits of reading to your kids and how to get them interested in books at Mom Loves Best

We at Tapkins have developed a fun word learning, spelling and typing app for preschoolers between three to five years. We believe that systematically combining typing with words and images enhances word recognition and can support the vocabulary development of young children. Our smartphone and tablet (iPad and Android tablets) app is currently free to download via the Apple App Store (iOS), Google Play (Android) and Amazon Appstore (Android).


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