Many parents worry about how many letters their child knows before starting school. How early should I start teaching them? Will they be left behind because they only know a handful of sounds? Knowledge of letters and sounds is only one part of the learning to read puzzle. In this emergent stage of reading, mastering other pre-literacy skills such as print awareness are just as important. The simple truth is that teachers will (or at least it’s their aim to) teach letters and sounds, but if parents want to assist their child prior to school, they can do so by focusing on crucial “print awareness” skills, at home – skills such as left to right progression.
According to The Noyes Children’s Library Foundation there are six main areas when thinking about pre-literacy skills:
- Print Motivation (interest and enjoyment in books)
- Print Awareness (understanding of the print. Eg, left to right progression, features of a book etc).
- Letter Knowledge (understanding the alphabet)
- Phonological Awareness (understanding of the sounds letters make, blending and segmenting etc)
- Narrative Skills (expressive language, retelling stories etc)
- Vocabulary (understanding of the meaning of words)
Why is left to right progression so important?
The English language requires children to read or write from left to right. Mastering this seemingly basic skill, aids a child to then focus on the sounds and words on a page when it comes time to “read”. It also helps children know where to begin when sounding out new words and so on.
How do I teach left to right progression?
Parents can start with children as young as toddlers. My son was 2 years when I started including the occasional Left to Right activities. Below is the recommended sequence for introducing this skill.
When starting left to right activities with young children, you will need to colour code the start/finish clearly. It is also helpful if there are defined spots to place each object, such as an egg carton (see image above). You can use a whole egg carton once your child has mastered the more simpler smaller version like in the photo above.
Once they have mastered putting objects into defined 3D sections and working from left to right, you can move onto flat or 2D versions. They will still need defined spots, but it is a slightly harder skill. Examples include using dot stickers or other manipulatives on a dotted line on paper, or a 5 frame on the floor (see photo above).
Now that they are confident working left to right, you can make it more advanced by using a continuous line. Make sure you still use a clear start/finish position (could be through symbols or colour). Try whole body movements too, like wiping off a line on the whiteboard.
Once your child can work from left to right independently, the next stage is to name simple objects across a line from left to right. This action mimics reading, allowing your child to feel success without the pressure of decoding and blending sounds in words. Start with simple common objects such as shapes, animals, colours or even letter sounds they know confidently.
Once your child has mastered these levels, you can go on to try activities that more resemble “reading”. Such as those found in this blog article by PreKinders.
Important to Note:
Start at level 1 and move forwards at the pace of the child. It is best not to move on until the child has mastered a particular level. For example, if a child can place objects left to right into designated spaces independently, they are then ready to try level 2 activities, don’t skip to level 3. For reference, as a teacher, I started the Prep (Kindy in America), year with level 3 activities. So don’t be at all concerned if your 3 yr old isn’t there yet!
Till next time,