Monica Olivera offers three ways to get help develop literacy skills in preschoolers (Photo/Getty Images) (Hispanic girls reading in library)

The 3 pre-literacy skills your preschooler needs-and how to make it happen

Hispanic students are the fastest growing ethnic group, making up nearly a quarter of public school enrollment. Yet they continue to come in last when it comes to literacy achievement. One of the most important periods in their literacy development actually takes place before they ever enter elementary school. Three and four year olds must learn valuable pre-literacy skills either in a preschool setting or while at home with their parents and other caregivers so that they do not start kindergarten already behind.

If you are the parent of a preschooler, there are many easy ways you can help your child develop these essential pre-literacy skills. The main thing to realize is that you want to focus on three areas: letter recognition, letter sounds, and vocabulary development.

Letter Recognition

Living in a text-rich environment helps to speed up the process of letter recognition. Hanging alphabet posters up in his room, reading abecedarios – alphabet books – aloud to him each day and pointing to the letters as you read are all great ways to develop his skills. Hang wooden letters that spell out your child’s name in her bedroom and teach her the names of each letter.

To further strengthen her abilities, you can try having her trace letters in sand or use play-dough to sculpt letters. Fun activities like these help with fine-motor development, which is very important for preparing your child to write. We like the Brain Quest Workbooks and Write & Erase Sets.

Online sites like Starfall offer a complete learning to read curriculum starting with letter recognition and sounds. And the learning is presented through visually attractive games to make the learning process fun.

For parents raising bilingual children, Monarca Language offers a subscription-based curriculum that develops not just literacy, but also early math skills…in Spanish! According to their website, 85 percent of the children participating in their online program are reading and writing efficiently by the time they finish.

Letter Sounds

Learning that each letter has a specific sound associated with it is part of the decoding process and helps kids be able to read and pronounce words. You can help him learn which sound goes with each letter by reading alphabet books. Or pointing out letters in the world around them and then giving your child the sound. You can begin with her name and teach her the sound for one letter each day until your child has learned them all. Once they have mastered their letter sounds, you can move on to the sounds produced when certain letters are grouped together, like “th,” “ow,” “st,” and so on.

There are many apps available now that teach letter sounds. One of our favorites is abc PocketPhonics, which not only teaches letter sounds, but shows children how to write the letters, too. And we also like Montessori Letter Sounds HD which uses many of the techniques for teaching letter sounds that the Montessori method uses, but in a digital format.

For lots of ideas on how to help your preschooler learn to identify letters and their sounds, visit MommyMaestra’s Letter Recognition board on Pinterest.


Talking to your child about lots of subjects helps them the most when it comes to developing their vocabulary. Nothing beats the one-on-one interaction your child needs from you to learn how to communicate. Take the time to talk to your child and ask him questions. Encourage him to reply and use new words.

But the reality is that all three of these areas: letter recognition, letter sounds, and vocabulary can be developed by reading to your child every day.

Be diverse in your reading selections. Read anything and everything! From books and magazines to signs and ticket stubs or the back of your cereal box. And consider signing your family up for the Latino Children’s Summer Reading Program which has a section for families with children 4 and under. You might even win a 1-year subscription to Monarca Language to help you develop your child’s pre-literacy skills!

The 3 pre literacy skills your preschooler needs and how to make it happen monica olivera nbc education NBC Latino News

Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.

%d bloggers like this: