How to raise a reader: Five simple pretend play ideas to try
Teaching kids to read is an important milestone for many parents. And while raising a reader may appear to be a rather daunting task, the key is actually to have fun – and lots of it! This advice follows recent studies that have found pretend play can support early childhood development, including early literacy skills.
Pretend play, or imaginary play, refers to a type of play where children accept and assign roles, and then act them out.
It provides a context for language and helps children learn how to re‑enact stories and structure their play. By participating in pretend play they learn how to connect spoken language with the written word – an important skill that will help them to read later on.
So, if you're looking to raise a reader, it's important to incorporate pretend play to help support your child's early literacy skills. Keep reading for some simple ideas you can incorporate into your child's routine today:
Top five tips on how to raise a reader:
1. Use functional print to inspire play
Items like newspapers, menus, signs, coupons or labelled items are all considered functional print. By surrounding your child with items like these during pretend play, you can create an environment in which your child can interact with print as adults do. Your child will see how texts are used in a variety of different ways. One study shows that classrooms rich in functional print material inspired more literacy‑focused pretend play, which resulted in children achieving higher literacy levels.
2. Act out stories
Encourage your child to act out a story in the right order and take on different roles. When they act out or retell stories you've read together, they're demonstrating and enhancing their comprehension skills. This will help them gain an understanding of narrative structure, and consider how different characters have different personalities and motivations.
3. Complement pretend play with books
Does your child like to pretend to be a doctor, a firefighter, a dancer or a dinosaur? Observe what they like to do in pretend play. This will give you insight into their interests, helping you choose books that not only capture their attention but also their imagination, equipping them with more knowledge, vocabulary and material to use in pretend play.
4. Use symbols to enhance play
During pretend play, a doorstop could become a slithering snake. A slip of paper could become money. By assigning a purpose to different props, your child will develop an understanding of symbols and create opportunities to use other symbols, such as letters and numbers. As they get older, provide writing materials like pencils, crayons and paper to help them create their own symbols to which they can assign meaning.
5. Have fun with role‑playing
Role‑play scenarios involving different characters can introduce new related vocabulary words and encourage your child to use expressive language. For a fun and powerful way to expand your child's vocabulary and encourage their language development, try to include as many details as possible. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words you can think of (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).
If you want to raise a reader, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Using activities like pretend play will help motivate your child to stay engaged, curious and inventive – enabling them to reap a wealth of educational benefits in the process.
Try Reading Eggs for free
Raise a reader with the multi‑award winning Reading Eggs programme (ages 3-7), enjoyed by over 10 million children worldwide. Designed by primary school teachers, Reading Eggs is proven to increase literacy skills in just 15 minutes a day.
It only takes a few minutes to get started, and your child can begin to develop an early love for reading from the comfort of your own home.
Try Reading Eggs here to see how your child's reading and comprehension skills can improve in just weeks.