As you head into a conference about your preschooler, you’re probably thinking about how she’s adjusting to the new classroom and whether she’s learning from the activities. What you might not be thinking about is how and whether your preschooler’s skills are laying the solid foundation needed for success in school and life. But we know, for example, that a child’s vocabulary at age 3 is strongly related to reading at 10th grade. So, what does that mean for a preschool conference?

You want to be sure that the time you spend with your child’s teacher gives you a clear understanding of your preschooler’s early reading skills. That means talking about things like how he is demonstrating his growing vocabulary and knowledge about the world, and understanding stories being read – but also about how consistently he is following directions and getting along with others, and managing some tasks independently.

To promote early literacy and home-school connections, we have been focused on helping parents gain a solid understanding of their own children’s reading-related skills during these foundational years. To that end, here are some key questions to ask your child’s preschool teacher that will focus your conference on the pathway to strong reading:

Ask the teacher…

  1. Does he understand the books you read to him? How can you tell he understands (or that he struggles to understand)?
  2. Does he take part in conversations you have in class — about the books you read or the topics you are studying?
  3. Does he seem to have the social and emotional skills that are appropriate for the preschool classroom? For example, does he notice when others are sad or hurt and try to help out? Can he follow through with everyday tasks (e.g., putting his coat away, only painting on the paper and not the table), and show independence when he is participating in the regular class activities?
  4. Do you think he is building understanding of letters and sounds? How do you know?

Even though today it’s hard to imagine your preschooler as the 10th grader who is reading advanced texts, doing homework projects, taking tests, and preparing for debates, you want to walk out of that short-but-important preschool conference knowing how he is progressing along the road to reading.

To find out about your child’s strengths and weaknesses on each of the three critical reading-related skills, sign up at aboundparenting.com (for children birth – grade 3).