There are many activities that conscientious parents and educators use with pre-school children to promote pre-reading skill development. Reading aloud to children, defining words, and asking questions about the reading are some ways adults stimulate oral language in children. Adults can also teach children about print/book awareness by reciting the alphabet, naming letters, teaching children to write their own names, showing them parts of a book, explaining the front and back covers, showing them how to hold the book correctly, and pointing to the words as they read to children to encourage left to right directionality.
A third very important pre-reading skill that adults can teach children is phonemic awareness which is the understanding that our spoken language is composed of many different sounds, and that people put these sounds together to produce words.
Children need to learn that the sounds that are paired with the alphabet letters are the same as the sounds of speech. Research has demonstrated that the knowledge that spoken language is made up of sequences of sounds does not come naturally to children, and, therefore, needs to be directly taught.
The small units of speech that correspond to letters of an alphabetic writing system are called phonemes. The awareness that language is composed of these small sounds is termed phonemic awareness. Generally children exhibit serious difficulty in learning to read and write when they have not acquired phonemic awareness skills. Therefore, phonemic awareness skills are necessary pre-reading and pre-writing skills.
Phonemic awareness skills include such skills as identifying rhyming words, producing rhyming words, isolating beginning and ending sounds of words, segmenting and blending sounds in words, changing sounds in words to create new words and matching sounds with letters (the beginning of phonics knowledge.) Most of these skills can be taught to children before they are even able to recognize and identify alphabet letters. The English language uses an alphabetic system to represent the sounds in words. By converting a sequence of letters into a spoken form, the reader can recognize unfamiliar written words by relying on previously acquired spoken vocabulary.