Preparing for Prep – Early Literacy Skills

Author: Lauren Hunt   Date Posted:24 June 2017 

If you have a little person starting Prep/Reception/Foundation next year, you might be already thinking about how you can best prepare them for this big step in their little lives; and reading/writing is probably the first thing that comes to mind. So I’m here to give you a rough idea of what your child ‘should’ be able to do when they start school, and how to help them along if they aren’t quite there yet.

Please note: every school may have different expectations, and every child has different abilities. Please see the school for more information and while helping your child prepare for school, try not to put too much pressure on them. We want to make learning fun and school an exciting place where they want to be! I have several years experience teaching Receptions in SA, and I’m also a mother to a four year old who will be starting school next year!

Literacy Skills that might help prepare for Prep

Hold a pencil

Holding a Pencil in preparation for Prep

Correct pencil grip taught early is really important, as it can be very hard to correct in later years. Ideally we would hope that a child starting school is able to hold a pencil in order to make marks on the page. If they can’t yet, of course we will work on this with them. If your child is reluctant to do this, try some different writing implements – crayons, textas, whiteboards, chalk or special papers.

Write their name

Writing their name - Preparing for Prep

On most pieces of work your child do at school, they’ll be asked to write their name on it so it can be identified as theirs. So they’ll be sure to get plenty of practise at it! However, this would be one of the first things I’d be looking for with my new class.

If you aren’t sure how to go about it, try writing it for them and asking them to trace it, once they’ve mastered this see if they can copy the letters, and finally, have a go on their own to see if they can remember how to write it independently.

There are lots of fun ways to practise learning and writing their name. Use your finger as the pencil and trace in the air, trace letters in a tray of salt, sand or shaving cream for a fun sensory experience, make the letters out of play dough, or just head over to Pinterest for some more inspo.

Know some of the Alphabet in particular letters of their name and common words such as mum/dad

Different Ways to learn the alphabet

Everything starts with the alphabet. A wise move would be to speak to your school about the particular approach to Literacy teaching that they adopt. For example, at my school we teach the Jolly Phonics program, which features the 42 sounds of the English language with more emphasis on the lower case sounds rather than the upper case names of the letters. Perhaps your school uses Letter Land, or a whole language approach. Find out so that you can support your child at home with some background knowledge.

Recite parts of favourite stories

Read books - Preparing for Prep

Well known children’s author Mem Fox is a huge advocate for reading aloud to your children, and you are probably already doing this at home by reading a bed time story each night. But I cannot emphasise enough how important this is. Children learn to read by being read to!! Read their favourite books over and over again, point to the words as you’re reading them, ask them if they can complete a sentence or predict what’s going to happen next. Encourage them to try ‘reading’ their favourites such as “Where is the Green Sheep” where the picture clues and repetition of the story can guide them. Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See is another good one for early readers.

Understand features of print

Simply by reading to your child regularly, they’ll pick up on the features of a book and ‘how’ we read. They’ll be able to identify the front cover, the title, how to turn the pages, that we start on the left page and then read the right page, that print moves from left to right, and that a story has a beginning, middle and an ending. Borrowing from your local library is a great way to boost their book knowledge and establish a love of reading early on!

Oral language – can they be understood?

It is vital that the child is able to communicate with the teacher in order to have their needs met. If you are concerned that your child may be struggling with their speech development at this important milestone, it’s best to seek advice from a pediatrician and/or speech therapist. Early intervention is KEY when it comes to speech and language. You may be able to understand them, but if other adults struggle to make sense of what they’re saying, I’d recommend seeking professional advice and support.

More resources?

Check out Twinkl  or Teachers Pay Teachers for some worksheets and printables to try.

Printables to prepare for prep

There are also some great reading/writing apps for the iPad 

Alphabet books are a great idea too 

Alphabet Book Collage

Be sure to continue our series including topics of numeracy, shapes & colours, social skills, fine & gross motor, hygiene and more.


Lauren Hunt is an early years teacher, mother of two and coffee addict from Adelaide. She blogs about all things early learning and parenting plus regularly shares educational product reviews on her blog

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