Reading is an important thing, and it would be great if we could all teach it to our kids. However, it can be frustrating teaching your child something you’ve been doing so long you forgot how you learned to do it. And the last thing you want to do is create a culture of frustration around your child’s education. To ease some of the drama in teaching your children to read, I have written out a step-by-step guide outlining how I taught my son to read.
Get a library card. Take the child on regular visits to your local library. Go to the children's section and let the child pick the book he wants to read. Once a week on a set date (Friday after school for example) is also a good way to get into a structured routine. It's alright if he is a bit too old for the book or has already read it. When he is a bit older, let him check out the book at the front desk, but always under your supervision.

“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.


I started this with both my sons in pre-k and quit each time because they were not ready. We finally made it through with my oldest who is now in 3rd grade and a great reader. My current Kindergartner and I have taken a break from it with plans to return. It is just moving too fast for him. He cannot make it through one lesson in the 20 minute time limit. We tried to break it into 2 20 minutes sessions, but he was still struggling. I do plan to return to it when I think he is ready. I think the book is a great start to phonics. The boys do love the pictures and funny stories.
I’m a K teacher and it seems that you are more interested in blaming his former teacher for where he is in his development more than anything else. Since this is a whole year later….I’m sure that he has picked up reading. However, I just want to say as an educator of 15 years who has a reading specialist endorsement, that reading is developmental—and each child is in a different part of that developmental process. As a parent, you are truly your child’s first teacher. Please revaluate pointing the finger at the teacher–as I’m sure that there was learning taking place in his classroom after all!

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.

Take any alphabet toy, blocks, magnets, or whatever you have and make up silly words. Once they know most of the phonic sounds, it’s super easy and silly to make up your own words practicing the sound each letter makes. I’m sure you’re wondering about vowels and rules… we just don’t go there at this point. For now, all the vowels make one sound A – Ah , E – Eh, that kind of thing.


I used this with all three of my children. It lays a very good foundation for sounding out words and getting children, even from different learning styles, to a second grade reading level in a few months. After this, you need to teach children the rules of spelling, but the reading part will come easily. With my global learning daughter, I needed to offer more support in the process by sounding words out and having her repeat what I did. You may need to adapt it for your child, but the beauty is that adapting is not difficult. Just make sure your child is ready to learn to read, and don’t jump the gun because some children were able to do this process at age three. My children were 5 (girls) or 6 (son) before I used this.
Often times, we want to force our children to learn letter names by a certain age.  We buy flashcards or DVDs claiming to teach our children their letters.  We drill our 2-year old over and over for minutes on end.  Don’t buy into this…allow your kid to be a kid and take advantage of the “teachable moments” as they come along!  Children’s minds are like sponges and are certainly capable of memorizing the alphabet from drilling, but that’s not the most effective method that will produce the best long-term results. Your child will be curious about the print he sees around him and will ask questions.  That’s your chance to jump in with a practical application that actually has real meaning and significance to your child.

Reading Eggs incorporates all five components of reading in its online lessons. Children are introduced to a range of interactive activities that reinforce letter sounds and symbols, building phonemic awareness and phonics skills, as well as vocabulary and comprehension. The e‑book at the end of each lesson allows children to apply the skills they have learned. Free trial.
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.
We are a homeschooling, mostly unschooling family. My children are 5 and 9. Reading is an extremely fun activity in our lives and the children have access to books, library trips, computer activities, and art projects that involve creative writing. My assumption was that they would learn to read early and through osmosis because reading is just what we do. But that didn't seem to happen. My 9 year old daughter began "reading" books at three by memorizing the story and then reading it back, she also wrote in pretend writing at that age. It seemed she was on her way. However, I had been a teacher in public school so when she was 6 I had this need to introduce "reading" because I felt self-progress had been slow. What a mistake! Within three weeks my daughter was totally off reading and I had unknowingly discouraging her honest attempts to learn in her beautiful self-directed manner. She a visual learner and extremely creative. We had encouraged cooking, music, dance and the visual arts as conduits for learning because she loved them so. Of course, I saw the error in the reading approach I had introduced and backed off. It took nearly a year for her to even approach reading on her own again.
Thank you for the information and to everyone else with their questions/replies. I am a single parent who has just recently started reading heavily with my 5 year old. He is aware of the sounds and has a few of the basic words down, but struggles with reading. This really makes me frustrated, but after reading this post/comments I am glad to know that what I am forcing him to do is way ahead of his time. Pushing him to read every night and being angry when he doesn’t remember might hinder him from future learning and I definitely do not want to do that. He truly enjoys the last part of the night where we open the books together and I want that feeling to last forever. I greatly appreciate the advice and will completely back off of my son as he still has time to grow into reading whole stories. Due to a late birthday he is currently in Pre-K so I think the pressure of wanting him to do well in school, being a single parent, and my own childhood misfortunes are having a negative impact on me. I plan to regroup for tomorrow nights reading and take things a lot slower with him and make sure that he knows that he is doing a great job. Thank you so much for you have saved me from me in a way.
In terms of outcomes, longitudinal research, the kind that follows kids for decades, tells a sad story. If your child is experiencing reading failure, it is almost as if he has contracted a chronic and debilitating disease. Kids who are not reading at grade level in first grade almost invariably remain poor fourth grade readers. Seventy four percent of struggling third grade readers still struggle in ninth grade, which in turn makes it hard to graduate from high school. Those who do manage to press on — and who manage to graduate from high school — often find that their dreams of succeeding in higher education are frustratingly elusive. It won’t surprise you to know that kids who struggle in reading grow up to be adults who struggle to hold on to steady work; they are more likely to experience periods of prolonged unemployment, require welfare services, and are more likely to end up in jail.
I just found your post! Thank you for the info! I was looking because my daughters teachers wanted to keep her back in Kindergarten because she is not reading yet, and they wanted us to “do a lot of catch up work to get ready for 1st grade”. She turned 6 at the end of January. You say that they are not expected to be reading until mid-1st grade so why are our teachers so persistent that she should already be reading? (They kept my son back for the same reason, I was even lied to by the Special Education Class Teacher on what type of books, how many words, length of the books they should be reading in first grade to help me make up my mind.) She loves to be read to, she is also the youngest and the older 2 have always done everything for her (ie talk, answer, cleaned up, carried her, etc), even when I tell them not too. I think this is why she won’t read for herself.
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.
Around the age of 18 months I noticed my daughter had become smitten with the alphabet. She was always singing the ABC song and she only wanted me to read her alphabet books. By the age of two, (24 months) she could recite several sight words and started taking more of an interest in words and what they said.My daughter is now almost 3 years old (33 months) and she can read several easy reader books on her own.
Thanks for these tips. Your suggestions really put things in perspective for me. My 5 year old daughter’s friends seem to be so much better than her at decoding and sounding words out. I realize now that my first mistake was comparing her to other children and, in a panic that she was “behind,” I kept trying to make her sound words out and now I fear I’ve intimidated her when it comes to sounding words out. :(
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.”

To put it simply, word families are words that rhyme.  Teaching children word families is a phonemic awareness activity that helps children see patterns in reading.  This is an important skill because it allows children to begin “reading” by grouping sets of letters within a word.  The first part of a word is called the onset and the last part of the word is conveniently called the rime.  Word families share a similar “rime” as the onset changes.

My little girl and her brother are now just turned 8 and 6.5. Both are avid readers, reading well above grade level. The 6.5 year-old began reading when he was 5, by sitting down and reading me all of Green Eggs and Ham (not memorized), and is starting to delve into chapter books. My 8 year-old is in the midst of Anne of Green Gables, and my 3.5 year-old is asking me to spell random words at random moments.
I have found a need to always test each child for a true readiness to learn reading. If they are not ready after a few lessons of testing, we come back and start again at a later date. No matter what, I have found the initial excitement wears off after several lessons and it is work to press through until they regain the excitement of really reading which does not take long when you consider it is only 100 lessons.

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.
As your child gets older and her understanding grows, you can move on to slightly more complicated picture books , with a tad more text to read (hurrah!) and even the outline of a little story. Look for simple, colourful illustrations and toddler-friendly subjects: mainly animals, vehicles, animals doing toddler-type stuff, vehicles doing toddler-type stuff and, of course, toddlers doing toddler-type stuff!
This article is phenomenal!!!! Thank you for emphasizing the importance for creating a love for reading and not a ‘system’ for learning to read. I’m a 1st grade teacher and mother of 2 preschoolers. Even with all my background knowledge on teaching children to be successful readers, I still find myself stressing out when it comes to my own children by comparing them to others (mainly family members around the same age). I’ve always said there’s so much more to reading than just sounds/words on a page. I look forward to reading more on your blog.
Project Read is used in a classroom or group. The program emphasizes instruction by the teacher. Lessons move from letter-sounds to words, sentences and stories. Project Read has three strands: listening, understanding and writing. All three strands are taught at all grade levels, though the emphasis differs by grade. The program is sometimes used in general education classrooms where many students are struggling. In schools where most kids are on track, the program is often used by special education teachers or reading specialists to give extra support.
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!
You can’t sound out words or write them without knowing the letter sounds. Most kindergartens teach the letters, and parents can teach them, too. I just checked a toy store website and found 282 products based on letter names and another 88 on letter sounds, including ABC books, charts, cards, blocks, magnet letters, floor mats, puzzles, lampshades, bed sheets, and programs for tablets and computers. You don’t need all of that (a pencil and paper are sufficient), but there is lots of support out there for parents to help kids learn these skills. Keep the lessons brief and fun, no more than 5–10 minutes for young’uns. Understanding the different developmental stages of reading and writing skills will help to guide your lessons and expectations.
Help us help you. We want this to be a resource that is constantly improving. So please provide us with your feedback, both the good and the bad. We want to know which lessons worked for your child, and which fell short. We encourage you to contribute your own ideas that have worked well in the home or classroom. You can communicate with us through email or simply post a response in the comments section of the relevant page.
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.
Every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do is to make it enjoyable. By reading regularly, mixing things up with the activities you choose, and letting your child pick out their own books occasionally, you'll instil an early love of reading and give them the best chance at reading success in no time.
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