I’ve read to her since she was a newborn and she loves books. She likes me to read the same books to her over and over. I ask her questions about the story, she looks at the pictures and, without my provocation, she loves to study the pictures and talk at length about the story. I realize now, thanks to your suggestions, that while she is not sounding out and decoding, she is comprehending the actual story, which is more meaningful and productive.


I'm an English teacher but at the secondary level, meaning when they come to me, they are already expected to know how to read. Because of this, I have no formal training in how to teach kids to read. I become painfully aware of how naive I was to the processes of reading when my daughter was at the age that she should be knowing her letters and stuff. Despite the fact that my husband and I are voracious readers, and that we read to our daughter daily, she had developed a loathing towards all things letters. When she was still mixing up her letters and sounds, and resistant towards all reading games at 5 years old, I began to worry. The summer before she was to start Kindergarten, I decided to take matters into my own hands. We were going to spend a summer learning to read, gosh darnnit! Or, at the very least, she would know each letter and the sound it made. So I scoured the internet for various books and programs to help me, as I, by then, understood fully I knew jack squat about how to teach a kid to read. And so I came across this book.

Also, it’s important to note that not all books will fit into one of these genres, especially books that are considered “phonics readers.”  I would suggest that you do this exercise only with high-quality children’s literature, not with books that are attempting to get your child to “sound-out” on their own.  Most picture books found in children’s libraries will fit into one of these genres.


Make sure at least some of your baby books are accessible, preferably in a toy box with other sources of fun, so your child can look at (and suck and chew) them whenever the whim strikes. Chew-friendly books are the best bet here. Look for ones with different textures to touch, feel and crackle or squeakers to press and shiny 'mirrors to stare in and giggle at.
Beatrice wrote, of her daughter who learned to read at age 8: "I too am guilty of trying to ‘make her' read, when she turned 6, worried that the kids at school would be learning this skill and not wanting her to be left behind. After a couple of weeks of insisting she read and keep a journal with me spelling everything and she copying it all out, she told me flatly to ‘leave me alone,' that she would have no part in my scheme and would learn to read when she was ‘good and ready.'"

Teach your child rhymes. Rhyming teaches phonemic awareness and letter recognition, in addition to the most basic English words. Read nursery rhymes to your child, and then eventually make lists of easy-to-read rhymes such as mop, top, flop, pop, and cop. Your child will begin to see the patterns of sounds that are made when certain letters are combined - in this case, the sound ‘o-p’ makes.
In other schools, balanced literacy can mean something very different and something that looks a lot like what is called the “whole language” approach — which is now largely discredited. At these schools, teachers provide a portion of the kids with a smattering of phonics (most schools now concede that some kids do need phonics to help figure out the code) and also encourage them to guess words from illustrations, and later, from context. As the children (hopefully) get more competent at reading, teachers minimize the study of language and devote their time and energy to getting kids excited about words, reading, and books. If you care about your child’s school success, you’ll want more of the former kind of instruction — phonics and word study — and less of the latter.
Nobody is better equipped to teach a child how to read than her own mom and dad. That's because reading involves more than sounding out words on a page. At its most powerful, reading is an emotional undertaking as well as an intellectual one—an interlacing of the written text with one's own life experiences. If a youngster is lucky, she gets to experience it as a warm, loving time when she sits on Mom's lap and turns the pages, walks to the library with Dad for afternoon story time, and cuddles in bed with her parents on Saturday morning as they read her favorite stories.
You, their parent, know what your child’s interests are and if you include these words into their lesson, you will soon have an enthusiastic child who will not only look forward to their reading lesson, but soon they will give you words that they want to learn to read, for example my son was crazy about dinosaurs, Winnie the Pooh and aliens. The best fun we had was making sentences using these words, one of his favourites was, “My daddy is a green dinosaur.”
May I ask if you would be willing to review our reading program. It is called The Reading Lesson. I will be happy to send you a copy. It the best there is. I should know. My mom who is the author taught me to read with it many years ago. And now thousands of people use it. In fact it is number 1 best selling reading book in England, and number two in the US.
Nobody is better equipped to teach a child how to read than her own mom and dad. That's because reading involves more than sounding out words on a page. At its most powerful, reading is an emotional undertaking as well as an intellectual one—an interlacing of the written text with one's own life experiences. If a youngster is lucky, she gets to experience it as a warm, loving time when she sits on Mom's lap and turns the pages, walks to the library with Dad for afternoon story time, and cuddles in bed with her parents on Saturday morning as they read her favorite stories.
We're homeschoolers who do not unschool, but I waited until my son asked to learn to read before sitting down with him and introducing phonics (he was 5 1/2). He learned very quickly and progressed easily with the easy readers, but then an interesting thing happened- he no longer wanted to read to me. He complained about having to it and I noticed he wasn't trying to sound out words he saw on signs or menus for fun anymore.

Start with the letter A, literally and figuratively. I know that seems simple, but a lot of people don’t really get this part as well as they think they do. I simply mean start at the beginning and don’t skip important foundational principles. I am realizing that many people don’t always recognize foundational principles because they are so ingrained in the way adults process information. For example, the difference in the way we say “bit” and “bite.” It really takes around 27 separate pieces of information to be able to correctly distinguish between those words — and we don’t even think about it. I did my best to write out every piece in a logical progression for you guys.
Others wrote about shared family games involving words, or about shared television viewing in which the onscreen guide and captions would be read for the benefit of nonreaders. Over time, the nonreaders needed ever less help; they began recognizing and reading more and more words themselves. The most often mentioned examples of shared participation are those of parents, or sometimes siblings, reading stories to nonreaders, often as part of the bedtime ritual. Nonreaders look on, at the words as well as the pictures, and sometimes read some of the words; or they memorize books that have been read to them repeatedly, and then later they pretend to read the books while actually attending to some of the words. Pretend reading gradually becomes real reading.
Have your child describe the story to you. After every reading session, have your child describe what the story was about to you. Try to get them to be detailed, but don’t expect an elaborate response. An easy and fun way to help encourage this is to use puppets who represent characters in the story, so your child can describe it to you through them.
For children in standard schools, it is very important to learn to read on schedule, by the timetable dictated by the school. If you fall behind you will be unable to keep up with the rest of the curriculum and may be labeled as a "failure," or as someone who should repeat a grade, or as a person with some sort of mental handicap. In standard schools learning to read is the key to all of the rest of learning. First you "learn to read" and then you "read to learn." Without knowing how to read you can't learn much of the rest of the curriculum, because so much of it is presented through the written word. There is even evidence that failure to learn to read on schedule predicts subsequent naughtiness in standard schools. One longitudinal study, conducted in Finland, found that poor reading in preschool and kindergarten predicted poor reading later on in elementary school and also predicted subsequent "externalizing problem behavior," which basically means acting out.[3]

If you, for example, showed your child 100 objects, 10 at a time (like a duster, a cup, a pencil, a shoe, etc) and asked them to memorise these items, you can easily get them to recall and identify all 100 of these items in a few weeks. This is the exact process that you will use to teach your child the 100 most common words giving them access to half of everything written.


Terrific post! My 4 year old is starting to ask me what random words start with and I have known for a while it was time to move forward with “reading” but didn’t have a clue how to proceed. Alphabet games and crafts will be great to continue learning letter sounds. Also, thank you for using wonderful pics of completely normal home crafts (“S” and the bingo game), and not dolled up pinterest ones. It feels accessible to everyone.
Asking questions while reading to your child is not only great for encouraging your child to interact with the book, but it is also extremely effective in developing his ability to comprehend what he is reading. You see, if our main objective in “reading” is getting our child to “sound out” words, we have missed the boat entirely. Even children who can decode words and “read” with great fluency still might not be able to comprehend what they are reading. If a child can’t comprehend what he is reading, there really is no point to reading at all!
I also loaned it to a friend whose child had fallen below grade level in reading in her 2nd grade public school class. Her mom tutored her with 100 Easy Lessons over one summer. When school started up again, the reading specialist sent home a note saying that she was amazed at the progress she saw, and that her daughter was now easily reading above her grade level.
Read Naturally aims to improve reading fluency and understanding in kids and adults. It uses texts, audio CDs and computer software. Usually students listen to a story and then read the same text aloud. The program tracks progress carefully. Students work at their own level and move through the program at their own rate. Usually they work independently. Read Naturally is most often used as an add-on to the main program being used in the general education classroom.
“Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows.  Phonics is an important components of reading/spelling, but it should never be the main focus.  Again, we are looking to balance our literacy “program” with reading comprehension as the end result.  Learning the rules of phonics is simply a tool that helps a child learn to decode and spell.  I used the Pathways To Reading program in the classroom as my phonemic awareness and phonics program and loved it!  It made learning all of the tricky spellings so much fun, but I wouldn’t recommend it until your child is in kindergarten or first grade.
My little girl will be 4 in May. She figured reading out, generally on her own, within a week of her 3rd birthday. (We do read to our kids, and she had LeapFrog phonics videos that she loves, and magnetic letters on the fridge, but we didn't do any teaching, as such). I would say she currently reads at about a 2nd grade level (can easily handle any picture book, but is a little daunted by chapter books yet). My husband taught her how to count to 100 on a long car ride just before Christmas, and she has been practicing that, and asking her way through addition and subtraction--but we still haven't done any "teaching", aside from what is done on the fly, as the subject comes up. This morning, she wanted to know 5+2. We were in the kitchen, and I was chopping things for the crockpot for supper, so I told her to group 5 magnet letters on the fridge, and then add 2 to that group. "5+2 is 7, Mommy!" Her 2 year-old brother knows all his letters and all their sounds and can count to 20, again without any instruction as such. We were originally planning to homeschool, and probably unschool, anyway, so it's been kind of cool to see it working well before our kids are "school-age".
In other words, reading Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat is an incredibly complex task that requires significant understanding beyond just being able to sound out words. It's based as much on a knowledge of how the world works as it is on how language works. So even though a toddler or a preschooler may not be ready to translate letters into phonemes into words, she is able to start gaining the contextual grounding that will allow her to give those words meaning. "From birth forward, children are becoming readers and writers," says Cox. "Their listening, drawing, early wordplay, pretend reading, storytelling, and scribbling all set the stage for reading excellence and a love of books and writing later on."
The distinction is between being able to read a book and being able to master a book. I regret that I came upon Adler's book years after I finished college and that its lessons on reading never got ingrained in me. As a result I fall short of my potential in my mastery of the books I read. When your child gets into high school, or maybe even sooner, consider introducing him to Adler's four levels of reading.
We're back to homeschooling again as of the beginning of this year and he's slowly getting back into learning for pleasure. Since he hates measuring and more practical stuff (just doesn't see the need for it yet, perhaps he will once he starts building stuff, which he wants to do), we did some introductory algebra recently and he loved it. He's really into abstractions and gets irritated with 'real world' problems. Which aren't really real world, but I digress.
DiStefano says that the new program has made her relationship with parents more straightforward. “Before, we might say, ‘That child isn’t reading!’ And we’d shrug. We didn’t know what to do. Now we can sit with a parent and say, ‘Your child is struggling to understand the rule that when a word ends with e, the middle vowel says its own name.’ And we can describe our plan to reteach that and get parents to emphasize that at home and get that child back on the path to reading success.”
I love most of what you have advised. However, PLEASE rethink your comments on “sight words.” Memorized words have to go to the right side of the brain which has little language. Sight reading is the main cause of dyslexia. Training a “right brained” child to send words to the right brain (that child’s normal default) is a recipe for dyslexia. There is really no need to memorize any words by sight. Take a look at those in the bingo game pictured. ALL of them can be easily sounded out. If you teach your child all 70 English phonograms (Spaulding’s “Writing Road to Reading,” Sanseri’s “Spell to Write and Read” and many others), there will be very few words that can’t be easily sounded out once you understand how “said” is the past tense of “say” and the y is changed to I before adding the d.
Between the ages of 2 and 3, reading becomes a crucial part of your child's healthy development. The baby is growing into a child and communicating a little more each day. He is beginning to express his personality, indicate his preferences and assert his will. In fact, during this period, your child will experience a dramatic increase in language abilities. Many children can comprehend up to 400 words by their 3rd birthday. They can also speak in simple sentences and begin using correct grammar. For this reason, children love having the same books read to them at this age. In fact they thrive on repetition, and use the experience to memorize their favourite phrases and expressions from the book. Supporting your child's expanding language skills through reading becomes even more important.
Hi Trinity M. Very nice hub about the importance of reading. I agree that children can memorize words, but I also think that they can learn phonics really early as well. I wrote a hub about a website called Starfall that uses phonics as early as infants teaching recognizing letters then getting into sounding out words. My 6 year old was reading words and simple sentences at 3, reading books at 4, and by kindergarten was reading chapter books. The website is amazing.

If you feel your child is ready, you could also start talking to them about the letter sounds – building on what they've probably already starting to learn at preschool. Find a nice ABC book and look at some of the letters together. Start with the letter her name begins with, and take it from there – let your child dictate the pace you go at (or not!). And pronounce them phonetically: “a” rather than “ay” and “buh” rather than “bee”, as this is the way they will learn them at preschool and school. If you're not sure how to pronounce them, download the Phonics tool from BBC skillswise to hear the sounds.

This is an amazing hub! I have a son whose just about to turn 3 and he's known all his letters since before he was 2 and he now knows all the sounds as well. I have been thinking it was time to try to teach him to read, but I wasn't sure how to get him to sound out words. With your approach he doesn't have to. Now I'll be making flash cards of those 100 words! He already reads books... but I'm almost positive its from memory not from recognizing the words.
Scripted lessons give consistent results. Children learn to hear and speak individual sounds of words which is actually vitally important to reading and spelling. They also learn to blend correctly and hear the sounds and then say them “fast” to pronounce the word sounded out right from the beginning. They learn to rhyme. I always play the sounding out “game” in the car while we are in the early part of the book. It really helps reinforce what they are learning and passes the time profitably.

Hi, My 8yo daughter went to kinder. in public school almost the whole school year, then we pulled her out because of this, she was struggling, still isn't reading, but she will, but the summer after that she finished teaching herself math, has done worksheets on her own at night in her free tiome, well whenever we are awake is our free time, over the years she has taught herself to add double digits in her head while making her own math worksheets. Unfortunately, my family only notices she isn't reading yet. I know she will when she is ready. Thanks for the essay, it was great.
Even if your child is one of the lucky ones and is doing fine in reading, students who are poorly served by their primary schools end up being a drain on the public education system. Reading problems are the overwhelming reason why students are identified as having learning disabilities and assigned to special education, often an instructional ghetto of the worst kind.
Reading is an important skill for children to learn. Most children learn to read without any major problems. Pushing a child to learn before she is ready can make learning to read frustrating. But reading together and playing games with books make reading fun. Parents need to be involved in their child's learning. Encouraging a child's love of learning will go a long way to ensuring success in school.
The Voyager programs are most often used by reading specialists in addition to the general education reading program. Voyager Passport is a small-group program for grades K–5. It includes letter-sound understanding, sight words and vocabulary. Voyager Passport Reading Journeys is for teens who struggle with reading. The program is taught in a group using science and social studies topics. There is also a Voyager Universal Literacy System. This is a K–3 curriculum that includes a program for struggling readers.
The message repeated most often in these stories of learning to read is that, because the children were not forced or coaxed into reading against their wills, they have positive attitudes about reading and about learning in general. This is perhaps most clearly stated by Jenny, who wrote, regarding her daughter (now 15) who didn't read well until age 11: "One of the best things that came out of allowing her to read at her own pace and on her own initiative was that she owned the experience, and through owning that experience she came to realize that if she could do that, she could learn anything. We have never pressured her to learn anything at all, ever, and because of that, her ability to learn has remained intact. She is bright and inquisitive and interested in the world around her."

I have been using this book with my 5 year old twin girls, and have such mixed feelings about it. We are half way through. Some things I love are the structure, it is scripted and somewhat rigid. That means less work for me in terms of figuring out what to cover. I love how it teaches phonics, which is incredibly lacking in the school system near us. I also like the whole brain approach the book takes. As a neuropsychologist, it's nice to see the integration of writing, sounding out, comprehensi ...more
Hi :) First of all, that’s a bunch of useful tips you posted here Jenae! I have a lovely six-year-old daughter and I’ve been trying to start teaching her how to read for a few months now. I went through a lot of parenting forums and tried so many things, but what seems to work for her is simply playing educational games on our iPad ;) She’s got loads of them but the one she likes the most is called ‘Flincky Mouse’ and I’m even happier since we’re using Polish at home (my husband is British, but I’m from Poland) and the app comes in Polish as well. We’re also trying to read to her as much as possible and I hope she’ll appreciate it in the future! Anyway, thanks so much for the article and see you around.
×