Literacy expert Timothy Shanahan shares best practices for teaching reading and writing. Dr. Shanahan is an internationally recognized professor of urban education and reading researcher who has extensive experience with children in inner-city schools and children with special needs. All posts are reprinted with permission from Shanahan on Literacy.
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.
Before our boys were born, we painted and hung large wooden letters spelling their name above the cribs as a decorative accent in their rooms.  I would have never guessed that those wooden letters would have such a learning incentive for Big Brother!  Around age 2.5, he began asking what letters were above his name.  That’s honestly how he learned to spell his name…and he can spell his brother’s name too because he has taken an interest in his letters as well.  In technical terms, this is called “environmental print” and includes all of the print we are surrounded by–fast food signs, labels, traffic signs, clothing, magazines, etc.

Sometimes, parents are told early teaching is harmful, but it isn’t true. You simply can’t introduce literacy too early. I started reading to my own children on the days they were each born! The “dangers of early teaching” has been a topic of study for more than 100 years, and no one has ever found any convincing evidence of harm. Moreover, there are hundreds of studies showing the benefits of reading to your children when they are young.


School reading books are usually a weird old mixture of really good, new, phonics-based texts and rather dire, old, death-by-repetition ones. If your child has the misfortune to keep bringing home books of the “The hat is red. The hat is green. The hat is yellow” variety, you may want to search out some more exciting books to keep at home. Choose books about things that'll really catch their interest or make them laugh. Get right away from those ploddy reading primers into riddles and rhymes, rude poems and silly plots.
If you’re nervous about teaching your child to read and the task is daunting, then 100 Lessons is an excellent resource. The book is scripted, which takes away the stress of wondering if you’re doing it right. And, although it can get boring for the kids as there is no color or flashy pages, I actually found this to work in our favor as my daughter got used to simple formats and responds well to my own homemade worksheets. It was also good for her to see that sometimes we have to work hard and press through to gain the benefits. There was great satisfaction from both of us when she finished the book and was reading far better than other kids her age and older.
Read Well is for K–3 students. The program teaches word-sound awareness. It also works on vocabulary and comprehension. Teachers begin by modeling what to do. They then gradually decrease their support until eventually students are asked to do the reading task by themselves. The program includes activities for the whole class as well as small-group lessons. Read Well is often used in the general education classroom.
North persevered. These days, kindergartners in Matuskiewicz’s class get a different kind of instruction than their older brothers and sisters did. During the first week of kindergarten, Matuskiewicz sits with each child and determines if he or she knows the letters and their corresponding letter sounds. The skill levels of the children are variable. So, class work in the autumn has to do with “sorting” — identifying letters and connecting them to sounds.
Point to the place in your mouth/throat where you are naming that sound, and have them imitate it. You can also make up a motion for each letter sound and remind them which ones are in a designated word. Looking up rhymes online to remember these may help. It may also help to write the words out and point to each letter as you make the sound for visual learners. Remember to be a good example and always speak clearly. If you are talking to your child and they say something incorrectly, just clearly repeat that word in your response, without embarrassing your child. If your child is still having trouble, have him tested for a speech disorder.
When reading a book to your child, you can do more than just read the story. Use rich vocabulary to describe the pictures. Ask your child questions about what she thinks will happen on the next page. These techniques will improve her storytelling skills. Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Show your child how to respect a book by turning the pages gently and carefully. Ask her to place the book back carefully in its place, instead of leaving it on the bed or on the floor.
But for information to zap from the visual area to the auditory area and finally to the angular gyrus, the connection between these three  -- a special circuit that develops only with time and practice  -- must be fully functional, says Reid Lyon, Ph.D., chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Eventually, as a child grows older and develops both his vocabulary and his letter-recognition skills, information travels that circuit almost instantaneously, and reading becomes second nature.
I was trying to find an effective and easy way to make my child read at an early age, after a long time I found one of the best methods to make a 2yr old child read. U may also have a look at this – kidzlover.com/reading-tips (click link above) Learning to read is very different from learning to speak, and it does not happen all at once. There is a steady progression in the development of reading ability over time. The best time for children to start learning to read is at a very young age – even before they enter pre-school. Once a child is able to speak, they can begin developing basic reading skills. Very young children have a natural curiosity to learn about everything, and they are naturally intrigued by the printed texts they see, and are eager to learn about the sounds made by those letters. You will likely notice that your young child likes to look at books and thoroughly enjoys being read to. They will even pretend to behave like a reader by holding books and pretend to read them.
Thanks so much for posting this! Our son just turned 2 and LOVES reading books. He would have us read to him for hours…in fact when his grandma comes over I think she really does read to him for multiple hours through the day. We read board books about trucks and tractors and animals and also read a lot of Dr. Seuss and Bible stories and Curious George. For many months now I have set aside time for him to color with crayons and I would write down the alphabet or short words and go over the letters. We sing the ABC’s a lot and have worked on his saying vowels. He began to recognize the letter “A” in many places at the beginning of the year. Last week we were at the doctors office and there was an alphabet rug and he began naming them through “F”. And he just got an etch a sketch for his birthday, so as I wrote down the first few letters of the alphabet or wrote down his name he began naming them! I was amazed! Not that he does it perfectly but I really didn’t know the capabilities of a 2 year old. I’m really wanting to find more fun ways to encourage him but not push him too hard in it. I look forward to putting your suggestions into practice as he continues to learn!
In previous essays I have referred to the great Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky, whose main idea was that children develop new skills first socially, through joint participation with more skilled others, and then later begin to use the new skills privately, for their own purposes. That general principle certainly seems to hold in the case of reading.
Have your child read aloud to you. You’ll be given a better idea of your child’s reading ability when they read out loud, and they’ll be forced to slow down their reading to correctly sound out words. Avoid stopping your child to correct them while reading though, as doing so can interrupt their train of thought and make comprehending what they’re reading more difficult.
It is essential for parents to create a healthy learning environment for their kids. it is imperative as it nourish urge of reading and learning in kids at early stagLearning is essential for every human being on earth. I am volunteering my services at a school which is running for poor kids. i feel so satisfied teaching and helping kids read and write.e...
What a great post! May I ask for some advice? I am homeschooling my 7 year old daughter. Our curriculum has her learning about 15-20 new vocabulary words a day. She has a bit if trouble. She can read a sepecific word, and then have to read it in a sentence on the next page and completely blanks. What do I do? How do I handle this? She also tends to see a letter and assume what word it is (ex. Haul- she read as “hug”). How do I help her get through this? I have not been able to find any resources on reading for a 1st grader. Also what level she should be at, if that even matters right now. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Set small goals. This is the one time you shouldn’t focus so much on the bigger picture. It can be daunting and discouraging. It also might encourage you to breeze past foundational principles and push them past reasonable expectations. So, forget the “bigger picture” and focus on small victories instead. Remember we should be more concerned with improvement than achievement.
A lot of people don't realize just how many skills can be picked up through the simple act of reading to a child. Not only are you showing them how to sound out words, you're also building key comprehension skills, growing their vocabulary, and letting them hear what a fluent reader sounds like. Most of all, regular reading helps your child to develop a love reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.
×