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.
p.s. I hated to read when I was little (I really didn’t enjoy the public school reading curriculums) but now I love reading. My husband loves to read even more than I do and so do the men at our church, young and old. In fact, one of our friends grew up in a home where his father literally had thousands of history books and had read most of them. Now his son is also an avid reader.
It doesn’t have to be this way. No area of education has been as thoroughly studied, dissected, and discussed as the best way to teach students to read. Seminal research and longitudinal studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, combined with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized brain modeling from the nation’s top academic labs, provide a clear prescription for effective reading instruction. And yet that information is virtually unknown among teachers, parents, and those who serve on school boards.
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.
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.
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.

I am a public school teacher and I'll be honest when I say I don't read to my son often enough, maybe once a week. However, I keep all my books in his room in the changing table and in the closet. Since we removed the crib side at around 2 years old and he had access to the closet, he's slept with books every night. When I get him in the morning, if he's already awake, he's reading. He's almost 5 1/2 now and he surprises me a lot when he's reading. A few weeks ago he found, "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty" in the closet, which is a comic book/chapter book. He told me the whole story and why the kitty was bad. I know he's mostly reading the pictures, but he's making connections, which will lead to word reading. He reads everything and anything he can get his hot little hands on which includes the travel brochures and maps from Burger King on the highway. We do a lot of board games and puzzles for math. There's no such thing as a quick game of LIFE when he's the banker.
If you have been following me for any length of time, you know my son took to reading like a fish to water. Right now he is 4 and reading at a 2nd grade level. Everyone asks me how we taught him, so awhile back I shared this post  –  Teach Your Toddler To Read – A Hooked on Phonics Review. It’s one of my most viewed posts. But, what should you do before that? Before Hooked on Phonics? That’s a question I get asked a lot. So often, in fact, I decided to put this post together.
Lest you leave this essay with the belief that I and the people who have contributed these stories have taught you something useful about how to "teach" or "help" your child to read, I assure you we have not. Every child is unique. Your child must tell you how you can help, or not help. I have no idea about that, nor does any so-called reading expert. My only advice is, don't push it; listen to your child; respond appropriately to your child's questions, but don't go overboard by telling your child more than he or she wants to know. If you do go overboard, your child will learn to stop asking you questions.
It doesn’t have to be this way. No area of education has been as thoroughly studied, dissected, and discussed as the best way to teach students to read. Seminal research and longitudinal studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, combined with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and computerized brain modeling from the nation’s top academic labs, provide a clear prescription for effective reading instruction. And yet that information is virtually unknown among teachers, parents, and those who serve on school boards.
I am a public school teacher and I'll be honest when I say I don't read to my son often enough, maybe once a week. However, I keep all my books in his room in the changing table and in the closet. Since we removed the crib side at around 2 years old and he had access to the closet, he's slept with books every night. When I get him in the morning, if he's already awake, he's reading. He's almost 5 1/2 now and he surprises me a lot when he's reading. A few weeks ago he found, "Happy Birthday Bad Kitty" in the closet, which is a comic book/chapter book. He told me the whole story and why the kitty was bad. I know he's mostly reading the pictures, but he's making connections, which will lead to word reading. He reads everything and anything he can get his hot little hands on which includes the travel brochures and maps from Burger King on the highway. We do a lot of board games and puzzles for math. There's no such thing as a quick game of LIFE when he's the banker.
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’).
Sight words build speed and fluency when reading. Accuracy, speed, and fluency in reading increase reading comprehension. The sight words are a collection of words that a child should learn to recognize without sounding out the letters. The sight words are both common, frequently used words and foundational words that a child can use to build a vocabulary. Combining sight words with phonics instruction increases a child’s speed and fluency in reading.

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.
Education has always been extremely important to me. When I was a child I used to always say I wanted to be a teacher when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, when I finally "grew up" I changed my mind and decided on the computer field instead. Perhaps some day I'll be a college professor and finally have the opportunity to fulfill my dreams of teaching. For now, I'll settle as being my children's first teacher.

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.
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.
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!
If you have been raising your child in a literate environment and fostering a love of reading from an early age, by the age of three, you could start teaching your three-year-old preschooler to read. What's more, your child will be able to do so successfully. If you are teaching your child to read through a method based on phonics, she should be able to learn to spell and write at the same time. This is often a highly rewarding period for parents.
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.
This is indeed a wonderful post! I have a 14 month old who loves his books. I will be socking this article away for frequent reference. I will note, however, I found the odd reference about how men are not prone to reading very strange indeed. Perhaps I am just unusually fortunate in this respect, but so many of the men in my life adore reading, that it struck me as quite false. I am, in fact, married to a male librarian who loves to read and is beyond thrilled that our little guy has begun grabbing books and bringing them over for him to read. But that assertion aside, an excellent article. Thank you!
It is definitely a steady (and at times slow) progression and it will be different for every child. I honestly can’t really estimate how long it takes…because it ultimately depends on your definition of “reading”. Some people consider “reading” sounding out words. I consider a child a reader when they no longer have to sound out the majority of words and can read steadily with inflection.
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.
Quite a few of the people who wrote to me expressed surprise at the sequence that their child went through in learning to read. Some learned to read quite exotic words, which never appear in the primers, well before they learned simpler words. Some, as I said, learned to write before they could read. Some seemed to be learning at a rapid rate and then they just stopped for a couple of years before progressing further. We adults can enjoy watching all of this as long as we remember that it isn't our responsibility to change it. We're just observers and sometimes tools that our children use for their own chosen ends.

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.)


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.

Idzie, a 19-year-old unschooled but beautifully educated blogger, sent me a link to an essay, on her blog, about her own memories of learning to read. She wrote, in part: "When I was something like age 8 or 9, my mother was reading the first Harry Potter book aloud to my sister and me. But, well, she had things to do other than read, and if she read too long, her voice would get hoarse. So, being quite frustrated at how slow a process this was, and really wanting to know what happened next, I picked it up and began to read."


You could also try putting magnetic letters on the fridge door or buying foam letters to float about in the bath. Once they know some letter sounds well, you can 'spot' the letters when you see them on street signs and food labels, as well as in books (“Look, yuh for yoghurt.”) You could also think up some other letter-sound games to play together, from good old I Spy to more modern, splashy stuff…
Great list, and wonderful summary. I particularly love the emphasis on making it fun and creative and incorporated into different aspects of life. I used a very similar list when documenting my experiences teaching my kids to read at howitaughtmykidstoread.wordpress.com. I’ll definitely be using your post in a future post of my own, and hope you will take a look at my site and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Most children learn to read by 6 or 7 years of age. Some children learn at 4 or 5 years of age. Even if a child has a head start, she may not stay ahead once school starts. The other students most likely will catch up during the second or third grade. Pushing your child to read before she is ready can get in the way of your child's interest in learning. Children who really enjoy learning are more likely to do well in school. This love of learning cannot be forced.
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."
Predictable books can be bought through the internet and cost a dollar each.  Understand that predictable books have levels.  If your child is just starting out, start with beginning level books.  As kids get better at reading move to more complex books.  Look through the titles with you child and choose themes that appeal to them.  Put the books in a basket with your child's name on it, so that your child can read their book when they want.
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.
Children learn best when multiple senses or areas of development are included.  That’s why hands-on learning produces longer retention and more meaningful application.  Once your child has shown an interest in letters and you have already begun to utilize natural settings for identifying those letters, begin implementing activities that incorporate as many senses as possible.  Keep in mind that learning letter names isn’t nearly as important as learning their sounds!
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