PARENTS who point out words and letters to children as they read aloud help to improve the youngsters' reading and comprehension skills when older, a new study has found.
Showing capital letters and how to read from left to right and top to bottom also improves spelling and language comprehension skills.
"By showing them what a letter is and what a letter means, and what a word is and what a word means, we're helping them to crack the code of language and understand how to read," said Dr Shayne Piasta, an assistant professor of teaching and learning who led the study.
Under-fives taught in this way, known as referencing, developed more advanced skills in later years.
Dr Piasa, of Ohio State University, said only a "slight tweak" was needed to make a difference in a child's reading skills.
More than 30 pre-school children took part in the 30-week study. All had below-average language skills and were at substantial risk of reading difficulties later on.
Teachers were told to make specific print references while reading the same 30 books to students in the first two groups, while teachers in a third group were told to read as normal.
Up to two years later, children in the high-dose classrooms had higher reading, spelling and comprehension skills.