18 Pre reading Ideas – Get your Free Pack of Activities

A child’s ability to read is determined by development, not age. Pre reading activities like the ones in the free pack or suggested in this blog will encourage this development. The pre-reading activities will form a firm foundation of skills and concepts in order to build future reading skills on. For more information about this and a free phonics activity pack visit my Letters and Sounds blog.

Pre reading skills

  • Visual discrimination and comparison
  • Left to right directionality
  • Language development
  • Improved memory
  • Auditory skills

Pre reading skills – Visual Discrimination and Comparison

These activities train children to pay attention to detail – a very important skill used in reading as children need to focus not only on sentences but very small units of words and letters.

Silhouette Matching

Children match and cover up the silhouette with the correct object.


pre reading

These can be bought activities or home made threading activities.

Spot the Difference

Children need to study the pictures in order to notice differences, again training the eye to notice detail.


Provide jigsaws of increasing difficulty. Children will need to study shape, space size and detailed pictures in order to make them.

Pre reading Skills – Left to Right Directionality

Children’s brains are automatically programmed to go from right to left when carrying out activities and when looking at print. They need to retrain their brains to go from left to right which involves lots of repetition in different ways until it becomes more natural.

Story Ordering

Provide children with picture cards to put in the right order. Encourage children to tell the story they make.


Print left to right patterns using a variety of objects:

  • cotton reels
  • potatoes
  • carrot tops
  • corks
  • building bricks, etc.

Washing Line Game

Ask children to match the clothes on the washing line from left to right.

Pre reading Skills – Language Development

It goes without saying that children need good speaking skills in order to be able to read. If we were to read a scientific text book with lots of words in that we had never heard of or didn’t understand it would make the reading process extremely difficult even for proficient readers. This is the same for children. The more vocabulary and language they have developed will make it easier to read and understand what is being read.

Simple Riddles

Read the riddle to the children and they have to guess what the picture is on the other side. Riddles could be made up for other objects around the room. Once the children have had the opportunity to listen to lots of riddles they can attempt to say some riddles for themselves.

Nursery Rhyme Bag

Nursery Rhymes Rhyme bag
Nursery Rhyme Cards

Choose a nursery rhyme from the bag and sing together.


Provide puppets to encourage children to engage in storytelling.

Feely Bag

Place a variety of objects in a bag. Ask the children to put their hand in and describe an object that they can feel. If they find this difficult at first ask questions to help them e.g. Is it soft?

Pre reading Skills – Memory

These activities improve a child’s memory. Memory is like a muscle and it needs exercise in order for it to grow. Children will need to use their memory in reading to remember sounds, words, and what they have previously read in order to gain understanding and comprehension.

The Shopping Game

Each player takes it in turn to add an item to a shopping list e.g. ‘I went to the shop and I bought a carrot’. The next player says ‘I went to the shop and I bought a carrot and some lemonade’. Each time a player adds an item. To make it easier the children could have real or picture objects to help them remember initially. Gradually, these are taken away as the children get better at remembering.

Matching Pairs Game

Print the pictures on to card. Turn the 12 picture cards upside down. Children take turns to turn 2 cards over at a time. If the pictures match, the child keeps the pair, if they don’t they are returned and another child selects 2 cards. The idea of the game is that the child tries to remember where the pictures are when they are returned. If children find this tricky, reduce the amount of cards used. Once they are good at the game, the number of cards can be increased.

Picture Lotto

This is a similar game to the matching pairs game except children need to match cards to a board. Again, children need to remember where pictures that they need are put when returned to the game.

Kim’s Game

Add 4 objects to a tray. Ask the children to have a really good look at them. Cover them over and secretly remove one of the items. Ask the children to tell you which object is missing. Increase the number of objects to make it harder.

Pre reading Skills – Auditory Skills

Listening skills are extremely important in reading in order for children to learn how to blend – the beginning stages of reading. Children need to tune in to tiny units of sound in order to learn how to read. I talk in more detail about this in my blog about phonics progression with a free booklet to check the skills children have developed. There is also a blog with free phase 1 activities that you might want to have a look at.

Sound Lotto

Children have a board each with pictures of sound makers on them. Children listen to a variety of sounds and cover their board if they have the sound maker on it. The first person to cover their board is the winner.

Musical Instruments

Use musical instruments to accompany songs and rhymes. Children can use them to keep a steady beat, play games, count syllables and copy patterns. Children can make their own instruments using a variety of materials –

  • plastic bottles and dried peas to make maracas
  • saucepans and wooden spoons to make a drum
  • rubber bands around a shoe box to make a guitar

Stop and Go

Use sounds to signal actions. A shake of a bell could signal go and a drum could signal stop. Introduce more sounds and signals as the children become more accomplished with the game.

Always make sure that children are having fun and don’t force them to do things that they are not yet ready for – we want them to love learning to read! Thanks for reading and enjoy your free pre-reading pack.

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