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How Do You Teach Reading To Preschoolers?

How Do You Teach Reading To Preschoolers?

Disclaimer: I am not a reading clinician/ expert. I am simply interested in knowing how reading is best taught according to research. This post has affiliate links.

I wanted to find out how reading teachers teach preschoolers how to read and write so I did a case study for grad school.

I was lucky enough to visit a one-on-one class in Read+. It is one of nine legitimate reading centers in the Philippines.

Phonics Instruction Versus Whole Language

So what is the best way to teach reading? Should teachers use PHONICS INSTRUCTION (e.g. “The cat sat on the mat”) or the WHOLE LANGUAGE APPROACH (e.g. kids listening to a story-telling of “The Giving Tree”)?

After a fierce debate that lasted for decades, experts finally agreed on a “BALANCED APPROACH”. Neither method can stand alone in teaching reading effectively (Wren, 2001). Reading expert Dr. Sebastian Wren says that only when all teachers learn to diagnose students’ reading skills and respond with focused, deliberate instruction will literacy be available to all children.

Individualized, focused, and deliberate instruction is assessment- driven, student-centered, and research-based.


Read+ Is An Authentic Reading Clinic in the Philippines

Teacher Dindin Clemente is a reading clinician. She used differentiated instruction. Her lesson is based on the results of his assessment and not on a general reading curriculum. She demonstrated explicit instruction. Phonics rules and the activity’s directions are directly stated to the student. She knows her student’s strengths and weaknesses. As a result, she designs lesson plans according to her student’s needs.


Before Reading:

1. TRACING: The student started his lesson by tracing his name three times. He also traced a few wavy and zigzag lines. The tracing activities helped him to focus.

2. STORY READING:  She set a purpose for the story.

“Why do you think the book is broken?” (She shows the hole in the middle of the back cover of “Open Very Carefully A Book With Bite”) “Let’s find out what happened to him.”

Teacher Dindin selected the vocabulary very carefully. The book she chose to read was developmentally appropriate for the child’s listening skills. He shows understanding of the story because he can answer his teacher’s questions during and after reading it. He is also able to give all the correct answers after the story.

The teacher showed good modeling when she read the book Open Very Carefully.



Teacher Dindin checked if the student understood the story. She also showed good modeling when she gave clear instructions and the student responded appropriately. For example, before letting him work on the comprehension sheet, she demonstrated what he needed to do. To answer the question “What was the story supposed to be about?” she told him to circle the correct answer. She also explained what each picture is about. He knew the rule to circle his answer only after the teacher has read all of the choices.

She demonstrated a gradual release of responsibility because she started off with good modeling. Only then did she provide guided practice with scaffolding, followed by practice before the final assessment.


Aside from teaching a new lesson on CVC words with “-it”, she also reviewed words with short i and incorporated them into independent practice activities. This way, the student can remember old lessons and gain mastery over previously taught skills. She used teacher-made materials such as colorful flash cards, an indoor match-up game, and a fishing-game as part of the test.


What Is Quality Reading Instruction?

These are features of quality reading instruction (Dewitz, 2010):

✔ Read outside the basal
✿ Used anthology or leveled books for modeling and guided practice
✿ Utilized trade books to provide independent practice
✔ Differentiated instruction
✔ Demonstrated explicit instruction
✔ Matched the scope or sequence of skills to the needs of the student
✔ Used children’s literature for read-aloud stories
✔ Developed prior knowledge
✔ Selected vocabulary carefully
✔ Showed good modeling
✔ Taught a strong guided reading lesson
✔ Demonstrated gradual release of responsibility
✔ Guided students’ comprehension

✿ = Observed in previous video recordings of past lessons

What is the Read + Reading Program?

The Read+ Reading Program is assessment-driven. Read+ teachers conduct formal and informal reading assessment to students (individual or group). Their reading programs are designed and made tailor fit the students’ assessment results. According to the center’s director Prof. Daisy Jane Cunanan Calado, trained teachers administer the assessments. They assess phonological awareness using the Catch Them Early Phonological Awareness Inventory. They use TORC (Test of Reading Comprehension) to measure reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary. They use the BADER Reading and Language Inventory to identify the student’s strengths and weaknesses in reading. Assessments are done before, during, and after the program.

Check out the other fun, research-based reading activities students do at Read+:

Meet the *amazing* Read+ Reading Clinicians:

How Should Reading Be Taught?

1. Diagnose the reading ability before, during, and after instruction.
2. Make reading instruction focused and deliberate.
3. Individualize instruction according to the student’s needs.

To learn more about Read+ and its different programs, visit the READ + Facebook Page.

Have you ever taught reading to preschoolers? How did you do it? Share your thoughts in the comments section!


Hannah Carmela is the author of Bellissimamma. She blogs about beauty, travel, and motherhood. She is a work-at-home mom and teacher to Leon and Lucas. She is married to her college sweetheart. Her family currently lives in Siena, Italy.


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