Make reading a part of your daily life, and kids will learn to love it. When I was nine years old, my mom made me stay in for a half-hour after lunch to read. She took me to the library to get books to kick off this new part of my life. It made me a lifelong reader. Set aside some time when everyone turns off the TV and the web and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. When my children finished reading a book that had been made into a film, we’d make popcorn and watch the movie together. The point is to make reading a regular enjoyable part of your family routine.
As you’ve probably noticed, there is no “magic formula” to teach your child how to read.  The points we’ve discussed in previous posts have highlighted simple, effective strategies that are easy to modify for your child.  After all, every child learns differently!  This series is not to be used as a “checklist” and think that once you’ve covered all the strategies your child will be proficiently reading.  Rather, this series provides valuable information to you so that you can guide your child while creating a print-rich, learning environment to foster his/her growth as a reader.  Don’t rush and don’t stress!  While it’s important to take advantage of the prime-learning time, it’s even more important to let your kid be a kid!
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.
Develop phonemic awareness. One of the most important steps in teaching reading is associating a spoken sound with a letter or letter-pair. This process is known as phonemic awareness. There are 44 speech sounds created by the 26 letters in our alphabet, and each sound must be taught paired with its letter(s) counterpart. This includes the long and short sound produced by each individual letter, as well as the specialized sounds some combined letters make (like ‘ch’ and ‘sh’).
Avoid using flashcards. Some companies have advertised specialized flashcards to help babies, toddlers, and preschool age children to read. In general, flashcards are not the most useful or effective technique for teaching reading skills. Time spent reading stories with your child will be much more beneficial than flashcards. “Reading aloud to young children, particularly in an engaging manner, promotes emergent literacy and language development and supports the relationship between child and parent. In addition it can promote a love for reading which is even more important than improving specific literacy skills.”[3]

Although it has been quite a few years since I used this curriculum, I keep the book for my grandkids. When I wasn’t homeschooling my children, I was using other programs to add to their education. When my son was in “pre-1st”, the public school told me he wasn’t learning to read. I taught my son to read in this book within two months time of working on it daily. It is thorough and complete in my estimation of teaching the sounds of each letter and starting where a child can make sense of their reading right away. It reminds me of how I was taught phonics in the 60s. This truly is a phonics program and works easily and well.
At this age, your child may change roles from being the listener to being the speaker. Now it is your turn to listen attentively as the child tells a story, asks questions, describes a problem, expresses an emotion or requests something. The child may turn the tables and tell you the story from a favourite book, or play the part of one of the characters in the book. This game heightens the child's sense of enjoyment while reading and should be encouraged.
Hi, thank you very much! Reading your posts really enlightened me. You have advises that change my view on how to teach my son. Most of the times spent teaching my son reading made me impatient, my son saw me very frustrated which I felt he became frustrated as well. And I felt so sorry every after sessions we had. I was the one so pressured. Thank you for these words “concentrate on making reading fun and enjoyable for both of you” It really tells me that I am the one who lost strategies. Please pray for me as well… Thank you.

You can ask questions after you finish reading, but you can also stop to ask questions during the story too. For example, ask them what you think the main character should do about a problem they’re having. Ask them at various points throughout the story how they think a character is feeling. For example, are the probably sad, mad, happy, or tired?
Wonderful article!! It's making the rounds on facebook. Lots of folks are supportive of the idea of kids learning to read on their own (though it's not really on their own, there's lots of support, resources and connection involved) when their kids are early readers, but begin to lose faith in the process when the kids are 8, 10, or 13. I've seen it again and again though in unschooling families: kids *will* learn to read when they're ready, whether that means ready at 3 or ready at 11.
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.
Thanks for a superb guide on teaching one’s child to read. My son loves being read to and is good at comprehending story-lines. He started school four months ago but is not progressing as fast as I’d like with learning to read. He is behind 2/3ds of his peers. Reading all the posts has made me realize what I already know and that is I should just relax about it and not pressurize him. We’ve been playing a word family card game recently and he is enjoying that.


Upon getting it in the mail, I read the introduction. It picks a few sounds to teach and has kids reading very basic words with the high frequency sounds, adding sounds and words to the mix as it goes along. Brilliant! How I never thought of this on my own is beyond me. On top of that, it's scripted, which makes it so easy. It instructs you exactly what you should do if your kiddo makes a mistake, and how to praise when they get it right.
This book was just what my son needed to start reading. I was nervous that he was starting first grade unable to read, but this program helped him move along really fast. He was soo ready, while other phonics programs were going too slow for him and he just wanted to read! There was some slight confusion with some long vowels being introduced early when a supplemental program I was using only used short vowels, but he seemed to work it out pretty quickly.
Always follow up a story with a discussion or activity. Studies show that comprehension increases greatly when reading is followed up by discussing the book or doing an activity. Parents might ask: “What was your favorite part?” or “Who was your favorite character and why?” They might ask their child to draw a picture of an alternate ending or help them write a story with a similar plot or theme.
Have realistic expectations for your children. First of all, set realistic time limits on daily lessons. We do 30 minutes of a lesson and 30 minutes of reading a day. Even grown people have a hard time paying attention for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Second, they are little human beings. They are going to make mistakes, and they probably aren’t going to be prodigies in every single area. That being said, a lot of people are not clear on what a child is supposed to know or be able to do at a given age or grade.
My oldest son taught himself to read as well. He was just shy of three and a half when he started reading traffic signs to me. I got him some of the Bob books, which he looked through and became bored with quickly. I was always trying to sneak in a test or two as well, asking him to read out loud to me. When he was almost four I was having some anxiety that maybe he wasn't getting a thorough enough grounding in phonics and whatever. Serendipitously, a friend of ours gave us the "Hooked on Phonics" set and I thought that I would use it. Because I didn't know how well he could read, I wasn't sure where to start. We sat down with the books, and he began reading them to me. Within two hours, he'd read every book in the box set, levels 1 through 5. I decided that I would leave well enough alone, and I put away the cards, cds, boxes, etc. and just put the books on his bookshelf. Since that day I've backed off completely and left him alone. His baby brother is two, and I'll often find them curled up together reading to each other. The oldest will read a story out loud, and the youngest will make up a story by pointing to pictures in another book and telling his brother what he things is happening. We're having good luck with basic math skills just by using Legos and Hot Wheels cars. Sneaky Mommy will send the oldest in to get "Two cars for everybody". When he comes back, I'll ask how many he brought. With the youngest, I'll ask him to go get a set number of cars. It's effortless and they seem to be having fun.
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]

You don’t need a Ph.D. to raise a happy, healthy, smart child. Parents have been doing it for thousands of years. Mothers and fathers successfully teach their kids to eat with a spoon, use a potty, keep their fingers out of their noses, and say “please.” These things can be taught pleasantly, or they can be made into a painful chore. Being unpleasant (e.g. yelling, punishing, pressuring) doesn’t work, and it can be frustrating for everyone. This notion applies to teaching literacy, too. If you show your 18-month-old a book and she shows no interest, then put it away and come back to it later. If your child tries to write her name and ends up with a backwards “D,” no problem. No pressure. No hassle. You should enjoy the journey, and so should your child.

Have your child practice decoding. Classically known as ‘sounding out’ words, decoding is when a child reads a word by making the sounds of each individual letter, rather than trying to read the whole word at once. Reading is broken up into two primary parts: decoding/reading a word, and comprehending its meaning. Don’t expect your child to recognize and comprehend words just yet; have them focus on decoding and sounding out word parts..
Talking to my daughter telling her what we were doing. "I'm putting your pink dress on you. Here it goes over your head. Now, let's put on your socks. Here's your left foot. On goes the white sock." You'd be surprised how much kids appreciate it when you talk to them about their daily activities. Now, my daughter will often ask me, "What are we doing today, mommy?" and I tell her our plans for the day.

I love this post! As a former first grade teacher, I am thrilled to see that the information you shared comes from experience. ;o) I feel exactly the same way you do on all points. One thing I realized when teaching my first graders is that parents would often push their children to read more challenging books, but never allowed for their child’s comprehension to grow with their reading skills. I also think that a huge developmental challenge for these little guys is confidence. My little 6 year olds struggled with confidence and so it was always hard to explain to the parents that they might be reading what seems to be “easy” books, but they can’t grow as a reader until they have the confidence to take chances and move forward. Great post! Thanks for sharing ;o) Consider it Pinned ;o) lol
Many of the teaching techniques and games include variations for making the lesson more challenging for advanced students, easier for new or struggling students, and just different for a bit of variety. There are also plenty of opportunities, built into the lessons and games, to observe and assess the child’s retention of the sight words. We encourage you to use these opportunities to check up on the progress of your student and identify weaknesses before they become real problems.
There's an education adage that goes, 'What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.' The fact is that some children learn to read sooner than others, while some learn better than others. There is a difference. For the parent who thinks that sooner is better, who has an 18-month-old child barking at flash cards, my response is: sooner is not better. Are the dinner guests who arrive an hour early better guests than those who arrive on time? Of course not.
Thanks for these ideas! I’ve got a (just turned) 2 year old, and he loves his letters. And he loves when I read to him. I feel like he might love learning basic words (which letters form the words he already likes to say), and then he would REALLY love reading. Most of these ideas are advanced for him, but I gives me some ideas for moving forward. Thanks!
If you're nodding along to these questions, you're the perfect candidate to teach your child to read. Sadly, too many parents have the misconception that reading must be taught by trained educators and requires a pricey phonics kit, worksheets, alphabet cards, special books, and other resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody is better suited to teach a youngster how to read than her own parents!
Other ways to support the reading process is through educational toys and games. These can be as simple as handmade index cards and self-drawn posters or as expensive as computer programs and video games designed for young children. Montessori schools employ a number of excellent methods to strengthen a child's growing literacy. A child can learn to write letters in a tray filled with sand, or rice or pudding. Your child could make letters out of dyed mashed potato and eat her words! You could buy french fries in the shape of letters and spell out your child's name. You could buy a child's computer to introduce her to the keyboard. You could let her draw on your sidewalk in chalk. You could cover a wall with white board so your child can scribble, draw, and practice writing. This could even be the place where you leave her a daily message such as "I love you" or "Good night". Don't be surprised if one day your child writes the same words for you!

Finally, I can't resist ending with a little story about my son's learning to read. He was a very early reader, and one of the first indications of his reading ability occurred when he was about three and a half and we were looking at a Civil War monument in a town square somewhere in New England. He looked at the words, and then he said to me, "Why would men fight and die to save an onion?"
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.
This program might not work for everyone but it was perfect for our last child. When he was ready (and I tried it when he was 5 and no go) we whipped through the lessons. LOVED the scripted format with him sitting on the couch beside me. It really does teach them to read and in the beginning you don’t see how it will work, even for the reluctant learner. But it DID.
Wow! I've tried lots of things (6 or 7) to teach my kids to read and this is the only no-fail system. Yes, my kids hate this book after a month or so of it, but it doesn't make them hate reading. This is the only book they are successful at. Whenever I have them try to read the school reading assignments or Bob books or I see sam books, or reader rabbit, or starfall, they instantly stop progressing. Most of these other methods either introduce new information too quickly or discourage sounding o ...more
I realize these are old comments now, but what the heck. Yes, I believe kids teach themselves math. At least mine did. He would count with us for fun at about age 4 and once he mastered that, he started adding then subtracting for fun. He'd make a game of it and challenge himself to add ever greater numbers. When he was getting into 3 and higher digit additions I asked if he wasn't interested in multiplication? He said no, not firmly enough for me to back off though. But I did just do a very quick introduction of what it was, that it was basically a more efficient way of adding larger numbers of sums. That took about 2 minutes. In a few days he was multiplying 2 digit numbers in his head. I'd give him a problem and he'd run off pacing back and forth doing the math. I even had him teach me how to do it without using pen and paper, but I never learned multi-digit multiplication that way as a child so I wasn't able to grasp it. That was in his first or second year of school, and into the third he had tired of doing math for fun. I was never able to convince his teachers that he was very advanced in math, because they said he worked out problems too slowly. Well, here he was having to add 8 and 5 when he was doing multidigit multiplication with ease. He was bored. And he's not at ease with a pen at all.
I know everyone says this, but it really is a good idea — at least with preschoolers. One of my colleagues refers to this advice as the “chicken soup” of reading education. We prescribe it for everything. (Does it help? It couldn’t hurt.) If a parent or caregiver can’t read or can’t read English, there are alternatives, such as using audiobooks; but for those who can, reading a book or story to a child is a great, easy way to advance literacy skills. Research shows benefits for kids as young as 9-months-old, and it could be effective even earlier than that. Reading to kids exposes them to richer vocabulary than they usually hear from the adults who speak to them, and can have positive impacts on their language, intelligence, and later literacy achievement. What should you read to them? There are so many wonderful children’s books. Visit your local library, and you can get an armful of adventure. You can find recommendations from kids at the Children’s Book Council website or at the International Literacy Association Children's Choices site, as well as free books online at other websites like Search Lit or Unite for Literacy.
Hi. As you will see once reading my post, I’m feeling awfully desperate & unable to sleep over issues my kindergartner is having in school. He’s an “older” kindergartner (6.5 y.o.). I have done all the things in your list. He loves me to read to him, and I do often up to an hour 1 day (books of HIS choice). Once he joined kindergarten, I started hearing that the work is too hard, that he hates reading, he can’t read, won’t be able to for a long time, he’s a terrible reader, etc. Early on…probably 3 weeks into the year, they had a 20 sight words screening/test & then placed all the students in reading groups. He seemed upset by the requirements. We were told for homework, to have him scan his finger across the sentences of these black & white scholastic books…example, “I like pizza, I like corn, I like apples, What do you like?” He would get so upset and clearly extremely frustrated by being asked to do this process. The teacher was willing to remove him from the reading groups which seemed to reduce his anxiety some. The class, together, recites out loud the 20+/month sight words they are expected to learn via smartboard. He knows none of them. From my vantage point, this seems to be difficult for him. The teacher says he’s doing “great”. He still occasionally says negative things about his reading ability / confidence. This concerns me greatly & shared this w/ teacher. When the other kids rotate b/w free play time & their reading groups, he’s allowed to do free play but he spends alot of that time @ the computer car games (school considers apart of the free play curriculum). It’s now January & now they will begin journal writing & small sentence writing. I’m certain this will be something he finds frustrating. On one hand, I’m trying to determine whether it’s healthy for him to continue being in this environment or not. Have you ever seen kids move from 1 environment to another mid-year & do well? I’m considering just pulling him out to homeschool w/ more tactile, multisensory methods of learning for the remainder of the year but just not sure what is best. There is more pencil/paper/worksheets as compared tactile, multi-sensory methods of instruction and that is not how he learns best. He often says the paperwork is “too hard”. Last week he said he was scared to go bc of this. I’m very concerned about his confidence; wondering what the environmental impact is of him not being there is )ex:(a number of them are reading accelerated readers). The teacher feels he does not notice this but I don’t get this sense about how he sees himself. He’s very intuitive. I’m not sure what to do but just want to do what is best for my child. For many months now, since October, I have been observing other schools classrooms, visiting them. Most expect these kids to read by spring. And most seem to be. Mine does not though I have done all the things you have posted. Given all that I have said, do you have any recommendations? I believe in respecting where kids are developmentally & it seems to me he simply is not in a place to perform at this level though the teacher seems to think he is doing great.

I used this book with all three of my children, between the ages of three and six. (My oldest couldn’t wait to learn to read at three years old, otherwise, I would recommend waiting until they are ready.) This curriculum is easy to use, has a strong phonics base and is effective. Each lesson is broken up into reading/phonics instruction, reading comprehension and penmanship. Because I used another curriculum for penmanship, I used this book strictly for the reading and comprehension. Each of my children were reading at a solid second grade level after completion, and transitioned easily to the McGuffey Readers that I used for follow up. All of my children (ages 18, 11 and 7) enjoy reading. My two oldest are voracious readers, and have not had any problems, even with advanced literature. My youngest (7) reads nicely from his McGuffey Reader, which uses a wide vocabulary. It is very easy to use, as it is scripted for the parent. You can literally pick it up and use it once you have read the introduction at the beginning of the book. The only thing you need to prepare for each lesson is to cover up the picture until they have completed the story and you are ready to move on to the comprehension questions. The only downside to this book is that the stories are kind of lame, for the parent anyway! My kids thought they were silly, though, and seemed to enjoy them. After going through the book three times, I was glad to be done with it, but that’s just me! Overall, I highly recommend this curriculum, and found it to be a good fit for our family. (Note: I also used Riggs Institute phonogram cards after completion to cover any of the rare blends that were not in the book.)

But in many schools, in all kinds of neighborhoods, there is a shockingly large chunk of kids — about one in three — who don’t master the skills they need to learn to read in a sophisticated way. Their road is a difficult one: although many will try to use their intelligence to cover the holes in their skill set, as the work gets harder and the reading grows more complex, these children will find they are unable to keep up.
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I think the key here is that children's brains develop at different ages and stages so, I believe that developmental readiness is when a child will learn any subject. I've unschooled my son, he started to read at around age 6, then didn't have much interest and didn't really take off in reading until age 8. But parents of public schooled kids, or kids that were being taught to read at home at an early age, were impressed that our son would just take a book off the shelf and start reading whenever he felt the urge to read, or look at picture books. We never pushed it, I did read to him quite a bit and modeled reading every day. He started by asking me to let him read the words he knew, then having me read a chapter, then him a chapter. We had quite a lot of fun reading books together through his younger years.
I’ve taught 1st grade for five years. I’ve also taught 2nd and 4th. From my experience reading is not only about word call and decoding. Your child needs to look at the print, slide their finger under what they are reading, get their mouth ready and sound it out. Work with word families and use an easy reader that has the word family in it. When you begin a story reload the vocabulary. You can use magnetic letter, dry erase markers on a table to to sound out main words in the story. For example if you have an easy reader that uses the family -op, then work and teach words that are in the story like mop, top, etc. Then when the child sees the word in print in the context of the story they should be able to recognize the family and use decoding skills to figure out the word. Don’t ever tell them the word b/c then they will get use to having someone read the words to them and they do not use the strategies taught. One last thing, your daughter is only five. Fluent reading normally doesn’t kick in til mid first grade. She just may not be developmentally ready to just pick up a book and read. Keep doing what you are doing and use the suggestions above and you will see progress. Don’t stress. Your daughter is already ahead of most of her kinder peers already.
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