Published: January 16, 2023
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Where Should My Young Reader Be Midyear? The Pre-K and Kinder Edition

Lauren Sittel
Literacy Specialist

For parents, this is a natural question to ask. For educators, this is a really loaded question. So let’s skip the long, highly variable lists of benchmarks and standards and get to the meat of the issue: what you can do right now at home to help your child have a great second half of the school year.

Let’s go beyond the literal question, “Where should my child be?” and speak to the concern underlying it: how can I help my child make strong reading progress between now and the end of the year?

Regardless of whether your child is behind, ahead, or on grade level, every parent wants their child to make progress in reading. I’m going to give some of my favorite at-home tips for Pre-K and Kindergarten. 

This way, you can meet your child where they are when working on reading at home. If they’re behind in 1st or 2nd, these games can help “fill in the gaps” in their reading skills. If they’re on track or a little ahead in Pre-K or Kindergarten, you’ll be setting them up for success.

Let’s go beyond the literal question, “Where should my child be?” and speak to the concern underlying it: how can I help my child make strong reading progress between now and the end of the year?

Pre-K: It’s All About Sounds

As you and your child gear up to Kindergarten readiness, playing games that focus on the pre-reading skills will set your child up for success the second they enter their new classroom.

Prioritize their phonological awareness. This means helping them hone their ability to hear and recognize the different sounds in words. Without it, a child can’t really learn to read.

Being able to repeat, recognize, and produce rhymes is the first critical step on this journey.1 Sing lots of rhyming songs (and talk about the rhymes), read poems, and play a game where you start with one simple word, then think of as many rhyming words as you can

The other big one is identifying and counting syllables. For example, “elephant” would be el [clap] e [clap] phant [clap]. Once they can do that, ask them, “How many claps (or stomps, jumps, or bounces) did you make for ‘elephant’?”

Quick reading specialist disclaimer: most midyear Pre-K students aren’t ready to use Ello. But you know your child best, and if you think they’re ready, there’s no harm in giving Ello a risk-free try.

If you play with rhymes just once a day with your Pre-K child, it will add up to hundreds of little phonological awareness lessons between now and the first day of Kindergarten.

Pre-K Into Kindergarten: It’s Letter-Palooza!

Building a strong foundation for reading takes a lot of time and practice, so many of the skills a child starts to learn in Pre-K will continue to need practice into and throughout Kindergarten. In addition to phonological and phonemic awareness skills, a child has to have an automatic knowledge of letter names and sounds in order to start reading.

But I’m not going to leave you hanging with a vague tip like “practice with letter flashcards.” Keep these tips in mind as you start (or continue) your at-home letter practice:

  • Don’t just teach the letters in alphabetical order. Start with consonants, then vowels
  • Don’t start with all 26 cards. Start with 1-5 letter cards, then add 1 at a time
  • Before you add a new letter, review all the letters your child has already started learning
  • When your child forgets a letter name or sound, just respond with the name of the letter and the sound, then have them repeat it to you
  • Teach all the lowercase letters first

Even though it isn’t glamorous, getting some letter flashcards and running through some names and sounds of them strategically every day will help your child tremendously.

Kindergarten: Blend, Baby, Blend (But Segment First)

Kindergarten is all about setting up a slew of pre-reading skills to promote the synthesis of phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and letter + sound recognition to create that magical moment: sounding out a word. And then another. And another!

Otherwise known as “decoding,” this is the key to reading. But before your Kindergartener can make that jump, they need lots of practice with two crucial phonological awareness skills: segmenting and blending.

Segmenting is the ability to hear a word, then break it into sounds. Blending is the opposite: hearing individual sounds & being able to “smoosh” them together to make a word.

To practice segmenting, model “stretching the word out” for your child. Start with a word like “man,” then really exaggerate each sound: mmmmm aaaaaa nnnnnn. Then clip each sound to /m/ /ă/ /n/. Then have your child try.

After lots of segmenting pracitce, tell your child that you’re going to play the game backward. Start with three clipped sounds, then go into the stretched-out version, then challenge your child to “say the sounds fast.”

Once your child is ready to move from blending into decoding, they’re going to need a lot of guided practice. That’s where Ello comes in! Ello breaks up the words your child doesn’t know or misreads, so they continue to build their decoding skills (plus fluency, accuracy, and stamina) even as they learn more complex spelling patterns.

At the end of the day, wondering where your child “should be” isn’t nearly as important as being able to meet your child where they are in their reading. Ello’s leveled system does just that. So whether your child is a budding bookworm, is reluctant about reading, or somewhere in between, Ello can give them the guided reading practice at home they need.

“My first grader started the school year at a pre-kindergarten level. I tried everything and struggled to engage him with even trying to learn phonics or sound out letters. Ello has been a game changer.”
- Taran S.