Back to articles Building The Foundation For Learning to Read

Categories: Parenting

Learning to read and write are arguably the most important skills your children will ever learn. Strong literacy skills are the foundation for all other academic achievement.


Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond, Educational Specialist with Kumon Math & Reading Centres, says that learning to read and write should begin way before children ever enter the classroom.  “As a parent, you are your children’s first teacher, and it is important to begin exposing them to books at young age.”


Dr. McGhie-Richmond says that before formal instruction in the classroom begins, children should develop the following skills:


  • Book knowledge - Children should understand how to hold a book, where the story begins and ends, that words are read from left to right, that stories are read front to the back and that pages are turned one at time. 
  • Print awareness - Children should understand that the words seen in print, and the words heard and said are related, and that there is a difference between pictures and words. 
  • Phonemic awareness – Children need to be able to identify the separate, small sounds called phonemes that make words and associate the sounds with the written words.  For example, the word ‘cat’ is made up of three sounds /c/, /a/, /t/. Children who have phonemic awareness can take spoken words apart sound by sound and put together sounds to make words.  This skill is required for learning to read.

As a parent, you play a key role in ensuring your children are prepared for formal reading instruction.  Dr. McGhie-Richmond and Kumon Math & Reading Centres offer parents the following tips for helping your children establish a strong foundation for learning to read:

  • Read aloud with your children.  Reading aloud is the single most important activity that supports literacy development.  This will expose children to language, teach them about books, and help them start identifying words and their sounds. 
  • Make reading fun.  Pointing to words, animating your voice and asking your children to predict what will happen next, will help engage your children and aid in their understanding of the story.  Singing the alphabet song is another great way for your children to learn their ABCs.  Playing rhyming games supports children’s understanding of phonemic awareness. 
  • Be a reading role model.  Set an example by letting your children see you read.  Children who are exposed to active and enthusiastic readers are likely to model this behaviour themselves.

    For more information on how Kumon is Building Better Learners in Durham or to find a centre near you, please contact 1.800.ABC.MATH (222.6284) or visit us online at