Chapter 5: What's Reading Like in Schools Today?

Modern preschool and Kindergarten classrooms might look very different from what you remembered—the walls are packed with rules and lessons, activity stations are often filled with books as well as pretend play toys, and writing instruments are widely available. In this chapter, we’ll explore what learning is like in preschools and Kindergartens by exploring recommended books, how to pick additional books, what leveled books are, and finally a list of sight words and how to teach them. Depending on the type of school your child attends, their preschool or Kindergarten curriculum may be more play-based or academic focused. Either way, these actions at home can best prepare your child for academic success and greater confidence.



Recommended Books

Below are recommended books for reading aloud with your child. You’ll find many of these books in preschool and kindergarten classes and reading them at home will give your child a great head start. You can find these books for purchase online or at your local or school library. If you like these titles, be sure to search for more books by the author or illustrator. A useful tip to keep track of what you borrowed: take pictures of the covers of each book and make a digital “quilt” of all that you’ve read. This way you can ask your child to pick an old favorite as well as a new book when borrowing them from the library.



Picking the Right Books

After your child recognizes the letters of the alphabet as well as the sounds each letter makes, they can start reading on their own! Finding appropriate books for your child’s age is easy. Look for books that have:

  • Text to picture matching, preferably with color pictures
  • Repetitive sentence patterns
  • A limited selection of high frequency, or ‘sight’ words


Text to picture matching is crucial for children to understand that the words on the page aren’t just scribbles, but directly describe what is happening in the story. Books for children up to Kindergarten have a high degree of text to picture matching, and you should encourage your child to look for ‘clues’ about unfamiliar words through the pictures.

  • If your child hasn’t learned the alphabet yet and is struggling with reading a word, ask them what they see in the picture, read out the words below while pointing at each, and ask what words they could match with the picture.
  • When your child recognizes letter sounds, ask what letters she could recognize, starting from the first letter, and what sound that letter makes.


Repetitive, or predictable, text have many uses.

  1. Repetitive text helps children anticipate the story, increasing engagement by giving readers an opportunity to participate in repeating words or phrases.
  2. They also act as story markers, allowing early readers to better understand the sequence of events in a story.
  3. Perhaps most importantly, predictable text gives your child a chance to read fluently, building up her confidence in her own voice and comprehension of the text, even if she is just repeating a memorized key phrase at first.


While we’ll cover actual sight words and how to learn them in another section, an easy way for your child to grow confidence while reading on their own is if they know many sight words.  We call them sight or snap words because readers should know them by ‘sight’ or in a ‘snap’--in other words, immediately. Most sight words are the basic building blocks of the English language, like ‘the’ or ‘and’, which is why they’re also called high-frequency words (they’re very common). Children should start learning sight words only after recognizing all the letters and sounds in the alphabet.


Leveled Books Legend

When looking for books your child can read by themselves, we highly recommend finding leveled books. Leveled books are organized by increasing difficulty from aa to Z. They’re available at most schools, libraries or online for download and purchase--just search “leveled books” and the level you want to find. If you choose to purchase leveled books, look out for bundles with multiple books of each level or used books. 

Sample Leveled Books



We recommend reading a leveled book with your child on the first read. After they gain familiarity with the words and story, encourage your child to read favorites on their own. The following chart introduces recommended ages and characteristics for guided and independent reading. If your child is ages 0-3, reading to them is the best engagement--even if books have no pictures or repeating text and few sight words, just hearing new words is immensely beneficial for a child’s development.


Sight Words

Once your child recognizes the names of letters, you can start teaching them sight words. Sight words are words that frequently appear in print and spoken language that students will eventually learn by ‘sight’. Developed in 1936, Edward William Dolch’s sight word list is the foundation for many sight word lists at preschools and kindergartens nationwide. We’ve updated this list with sight words that show up with more frequency today.


To use this list, we recommend:

  1. Start with List 1, Column 1
  2. Learn a new word each day and review them on a weekly basis
  3. To learn new words:
    • Say the word, spell each letter, then use it in a sentence. Have your child repeat
    • Then, write them on a piece of paper and stick them somewhere visible to your child
  4. Point out sight words in printed materials--you can spell out speech as well, but our main goal is recognize that those specific letters make up that specific sight word
  5. When reviewing sight words, mix up a batch of 7-10


Again, before you start teaching your child sight words, make sure she recognizes all letters of the alphabet by sight and by name. Typically, children start learning sight words at age 5 at the end of preschool. For parents of children 3 and under, you can use this list to see which words you should emphasize or review while reading with your child. Mastery of a sight word means a student is able to automatically recognize the word without tapping it out or using any other strategies.


For parents of children 4 and older hoping to measure how many sight words your child knows, we recommend randomizing each column so your child do not memorize the order. If you choose to quiz your child, we recommend testing at most every month. That way you can ensure you’re testing long-term retention--crucial for these words that students should know in an instant. The total number of sight words your child knows is not as important as her enthusiasm to keep learning!




This concludes our brief introduction to literacy at home! If you'd like to receive a pdf version of this ebook complete with flashcards and writing practice sheets, please send us an email at titled "literacy ebook". Thank you for reading!