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Mother and daughter looking at square tile

Shapes for reading success

11 April 2022 | State Library of Queensland

Early recognition of shapes builds the groundwork for later letter reading. Many of the letters children need to learn to prepare them for reading are made of shapes. We all use shape as a way of identifying and organising visual information. Recognising shapes is key to understanding how objects are the same or different.  

Capital letters including p, b and q are mostly made of circles (or parts of circles) and lines. The first step in understanding letters is the ability to know the difference between a circle and a square or rectangle. You can start by introducing basic shapes such as a circle, square, triangle, and rectangle. From there, you can move on to more advanced shapes of diamond, heart, star, and oval. Use shape words in your everyday conversation. For example, "That jumper has round buttons!"  

You can help your little one learn to recognise different shapes by playing 'The Observation Game'. Challenge your child to look for different shapes in your house. Focus on a different shape each day and see if they can find 10 round or square objects around your home.  

Play 'Spot the Shape' when you go for walks, through the window of your car or at the supermarket. Children will really enjoy finding the different shapes in the world around them. You'd be surprised how often the same shapes and patterns are repeated in nature. Talk about what you notice and compare how objects are the same or different.  

Shape activities  

  • Provide children with plenty of pencils and paper, and encourage them to practise drawing shapes for themselves. The shapes don’t have to be perfect! 
  • Provide a variety of 2- and 3-dimensional objects as shape practice. 
  • Play shape sorting games with household items like pantry items.  
  • Provide art material like paint, sand, or playdough for shape drawing or making.

Shape books  

  • Let’s Look at Shapes by Marion Deuchers 
  • Love, Triangle by Marcie Colleen 
  • Shape by Shape by Suse Macdonald 
  • Shapes Everywhere by Nick Rebman 
  • This is a Book of Shapes by Kenneth Kraegel  
  • This is Not an Egg by Laura Bunting  
  • Triangle by Yusuke Yonezu   


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