Building a Foundation for a Love of Reading

Preparing young learners to read is like building a tower with blocks. To build a tall, sturdy tower, one first needs a strong foundation. Once the foundation is in place, additional blocks provide a supportive structure as the builder reaches higher and higher. Patience is required to get all the pieces in the right place.

When Saddle River Day School educators begin teaching their students to read, a strong foundation is also necessary for future success. So, the first step in reading readiness instruction involves deconstructing language into each individual sound and letter in order to teach a child how these components can be combined to make words, then phrases and sentences, then eventually, paragraphs, chapters, and books.

Children in the Saddle River Day School Early Childhood Program begin to learn this process as early as Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4. Through games that involve tapping a beat for each letter, and inventing or repeating silly rhymes, our littlest learners are practicing the skills they’ll need to become lifelong readers without even knowing they’re learning something new.

Most of us have long forgotten the path we took to become readers, so it’s hard to remember that there was a time when we didn’t recognize sounds, nor could we identify or write letters. But this is where the educators in the SRDS Early Childhood program start their work with their students each year. The first step is to develop a child’s phonemic (ear) awareness by teaching them to separate sounds in a word like “cat” into the “c” “a” and “t” sounds. Once students master this skill, they can move on to recognizing letters, associating each letter with its sound or sounds, and then beginning to identify words based on this new comprehension. It is at this stage that they also pick up a pencil and begin to write letters and words.

Though the process of building reading readiness is standard for most children, the pace at which students achieve mastery of each skill differs. At Saddle River Day School, lessons are focused around reaching each child exactly where they are. With both a teacher and a teacher’s assistant in each Early Childhood program classroom, check-ins are a daily occurrence in order to ensure each child’s needs are being met. The low child-to-teacher ratio at SRDS means that each child is given individualized instruction and attention daily, ensuring that no child ever feels overwhelmed or bored. SRDS Pre-K and Kindergarten students are encouraged and challenged to flourish and grow in their own time.

The magical thing is, eventually, every child at Saddle River Day School learns to read. That lightbulb clicks on and suddenly, you can’t stop them from reading every single thing they see, sometimes including your texts, so watch out! The important thing is that SRDS students should not only know how to read, but they should also love to read.

Educators in the Early Childhood program are focused on process and practice, but they’re also teaching literacy skills. SRDS Early Childhood students are taught concepts of print, including how to hold a book, how to read from the left to the right and from the top to the bottom of the page. They learn, through partner reading and teacher read-alouds, how to listen attentively, and how to use expression and proper intonation. They are given the building blocks for discussing plot, theme, and character. And they are encouraged every step of the way by teachers with an obvious passion for the written word.

At Saddle River Day School, we construct readers, writers and thinkers one step at a time. 

Email Kris Sweeny, Associate Director of Admissions (, to schedule a visit or register for an Open House (October 20 and November 15 at 6:00 pm) or visit