Building blocks for school success.

Here are six things every child should know before starting school — and simple ways to teach them!

1. Words, words, and more words!

  • Read to your child as often as you can. They will learn more words from books than from TV and videos.
  • Ask your child questions about the story while you read together. Let your child point to words they know.

2. How books work

  • Show your child that words read from left to right.
  • Show them that each page goes from the top to the bottom, and from the left to the right.
  • Show them how to hold a book, and encourage them to turn the pages.

3. What letters are

  • Read alphabet books (“A is for apple, B is for boy…“) with your child.
  • Use magnetic letters, alphabet puzzles, and other activities to teach the alphabet.
  • Look at letters everywhere! Help your child point out letters on signs or labels.
  • Teach your child to write their name and other simple words with a marker or using a computer or magnet letters.
  • Make letters out of anything! Shape aluminum foil into letters or trace letters in a pan of flour.

4. Sounds of letters and words

  • Make a letter sound and ask your child to repeat it.
  • Point out a letter and ask your child to make the sound (or sounds) of that letter. Help them learn that some letters have more than one sound.
  • Show that words are made up of smaller sounds. Sound out large words as you read them out loud.
  • Point out words that rhyme.
  • Play word games.
  • Sing together!

5. How to tell a story

  • Share books with just pictures (no words) and ask your child what they see in the pictures.
  • Ask questions that need more than a “yes“ or “no” answer.
  • Read a story together then ask your child to tell the story back to you.
  • Ask your child to tell you about their day.

6. Reading is exciting!

  • Make sharing a book a fun part of every day.
  • Give books as presents.
  • Take your child to the library.
  • Have books, pictures, children‘s magazines, and lots of things to talk about in your home.
  • Set a good example. Let your child see you reading your own books and enjoying it!

This information was compiled as part of the library's 2005 Every Child a Reader initiative, supported by a $158,625 grant. Funding for this grant was awarded by the Illinois State Library (ISL), a Division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Books Can Help

Want ideas for books that will help teach any of these things? Talk to a children‘s librarian at 217/403–2030 or stop by the Children‘s Desk.