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Learning to Read Starts Young

By Shari Harpaz, MS, CCC-SLP


Most children will begin to read between the ages of 5-6 years. But before they can read they need to gain the foundation of pre-reading skills. We don’t often think of reading when it comes to our toddlers, but they start hearing about the ABCs in songs and begin gaining letter recognition starting at around 2 years of age. Rhyming, recognizing first sounds in words, and syllable awareness are all phonemic awareness skills your child has before they are ready to start reading.


As parents, a great way to spend quality time with your child is reading to them and this should begin when they are infants. Exposing children to books at this young age is the first step to peaking their future interest in reading.

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Your 1 – 2 ½ year old will gain familiarity with the alphabet when you sing “ABC” to them. As their language develops, they will enjoy singing along with you. Let them play with toys with the alphabet to gain added exposure to letters.

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In the later 2s and early 3s, your child will start to recognize the letters of the alphabet on their own. Your 3 year old will also begin to recognize the first letter in words and be able to make letter-word associations. In their pre-school class, they will develop this skill and likely use it to discover their own name. They also will learn to rhyme, a phonemic awareness skill that children this age love to do.

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Your child’s interest in trying to read will begin when they are around 4 years old. They may ask, “what does this say?” while you read books to them. Take the time to help them sound out words to help develop their letter-sound association skills. In addition, your child will benefit greatly from playing basic word games. Two great games are See and Spell, Fun with Letters.


These days it is difficult to compete with television, video games and the Internet. Exposing them to books at a very early age will jumpstart your child’s fascination with books and help develop an avid little reader.


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