How To Teach A Child To Read

To read is something that is important to both kids and adults.



And it can be developed at any age.

However for kids, majority don’t start reading until around 6 years old.

This is not to say that you should wait till your child is old enough before you start teaching reading but at the same time, there is no need for pressure.

The information shared below is beneficial for children of all ages.

There is no need to implement all of these strategies at once; neither should you expect your child to be able to do everything right away.

Learning to read is a process and like any other process it takes time.


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The following strategies will help you teach a child how to read in very simple ways:



Teaching your child to read is truly a process that begins at infancy. No, I am most certainly NOT advocating programs that claim to teach your baby to read using flashcards! What I AM encouraging you to do is to begin reading with your newborn within days of welcoming her home!

Not only is ongoing reading time building a special bonding time for the two of you, it instils in her a love for books. Enjoyment while reading is one of the single greatest predictors of reading success in school-age children. If children don’t learn from an early age to enjoy reading, it will most likely hinder their ability sometime down the road.

How much you read to your child is completely up to you and your family, but I suggest you aim to read at least 3-4 books a day, even while your child is very young. As she gets a little older and can sit for longer stretches of time, make it a family goal to read together for at least 20-minutes each day.

Here are a few suggestions for the types of books to read to your child. But by all means, read whatever your child responds to and enjoys!

  • Birth-1 Year: Lullabies, Board Books (with real pictures), Cloth Books (with various textures), Song Books
  • 1 Year-3 Years: Rhyming Books, Song Books, Short-Story Board Books
  • 3 Years-5 Years: Alphabet Books, Song Books, Picture Books, Rhyming Books



Even if your child is fascinated with books from an early age, her fascination will quickly dwindle if she does not see reading modelled in her home. If you are not an avid reader yourself, make a conscious effort to let your children see you reading for at least a few minutes each day!

Read a magazine, a cookbook, a novel, your Bible…it’s up to you!

But show your child that reading is something that even adults need to do. Sons need to see their fathers read; especially since it is not something that young energetic boys are naturally prone to doing.

As parents, we can sometimes get wrapped up with what exactly our children should be doing to be successful. But we often forget that children often learn by example. Grab a book and take a load off…for your child’s sake, of course!



Children’s songs and nursery rhymes aren’t just a lot of fun—the rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read.

A good way to build phonemic awareness is to clap rhythmically together and recite songs in unison.

This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for kids to implicitly develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success.



Cut out simple cards and write a word containing three sounds on each one. Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers.

Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third.

This simple activity requires little prep time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills helping them learn how to sound out words.

If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than letter names.



Create daily opportunities to build your child’s reading skills by creating a print rich environment at home.

Seeing printed words enables children to see and apply connections between sounds and letter symbols.

When you’re out and about, point out letters on posters, billboards and signs.

In time you can model sounding out the letters to make words.

Focus on the first letter in words. Ask your child “What sound is that letter?” “What other word starts with that sound?” “What word rhymes with that word?”


Read Also: Program Review: Children Learning Reading



Building on from the previous step, introduce simple word games on a regular basis.

Focus on playing games that encourage your child to listen, identify and manipulate the sounds in words.

For example, start by asking questions like “What sound does the word start with?” “What sound does the word end with?” “What words start with the sound?” and “What word rhymes with?”



It’s important to remember that learning to read involves various different skills.

There are five essential components of reading that you can read about here. These are the skills all children need in order to successfully learn how to read.

In summary, these include:

  1. Phonemic awareness – the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in words
  2. Phonics – recognising the connection between letters and the sounds they make
  3. Vocabulary – understanding the meaning of words, their definitions, and their context
  4. Reading comprehension – understand the meaning of text, both in storybooks and information books
  5. Fluency – the ability to read aloud with speed, understanding and accuracy

Children must be 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.



Middle vowel sounds can be tricky for some children, which is why this activity can be so helpful.

Prepare letter magnets on the fridge and pull the vowels to one side (a, e, i, o, u). Say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example ‘cat’, and ask your child to spell it using the magnets.

To help them, say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter, and ask your child which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound.



Learning to read should be an enjoyable process in order to keep kids motivated to improve.

Sometimes a child might be full of excitement and eagerness to learn at the beginning, but once they hit a wall can feel overwhelmed and give up easily.

As a parent, it can feel impossible to pick up again and know where to fill in any gaps that may be causing frustration.

In cases like these, you can use self-paced lessons that match each individual child’s ability.

Children can be rewarded for completing activities and reaching new levels, which keeps them motivated to stay on track.



A lot of people don’t realise 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 for reading, which is the best way to set them up for reading success.

Strengthen your child’s comprehension skills by asking questions while reading.

For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures. For older children, ask questions about what you’ve just read, like “Why do you think the little bird was afraid?” “When did Sophie realise she had special powers?”


Read Also: Better Reading: Make This Your Resolution



Sight words are ones that cannot be easily sounded out and need to be recognised on sight.

High frequency sight words are ones that occur very often in reading and writing (e.g. you, I, we, am, had, and, to, the, have, they, where, was, does).

The strategy for learning sight words is, “See the word, say the word”.

Learning to identify and read sight words is essential for young children to become fluent readers.

Most children will be able to learn a few sight words at the age of four (e.g. is, it, my, me, no, see, and we) and around 20 sight words by the end of their first year of school.

You can teach sight words by playing with flashcards and using reading programmes.



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.



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!

There are a plethora of ways to incorporate multiple domains of development in regards to letter recognition and early-reading skills.

Alphabet crafts allow your child to learn the shape of a letter along with an association of the sound it makes all the while utilizing fine motor skills in the process of cutting, gluing, and creating!

Playing games that involve gross motor skills are also wonderful ways to include movement.

Of course, every child loves songs and rhymes! Take an inventory of your child’s strengths and areas of interest and target activities to fit them!



Once your child is around 5 and can recognize the difference between real and make-believe, I would suggest starting to help your child understand various genres of books during your reading time together.

This might seem complicated, but it’s really not. There are around 5 different genres of children’s books that I would encourage you to point out to your little one.

Of course you can use the term “type” rather than “genre” if that is easier to remember.

  • Nonfiction (real stories or facts about animals, places, people, etc)
  • Fantasy (make-believe, can’t happen in real life because of magic, talking animals, etc)
  • Realistic Fiction (a made-up story, but it could technically happen in real life because the characters and situations are believable)
  • Alphabet Books
  • Song Books


When children classify a book into a certain genre, they have to first summarize the book in their head and recall details.

Then they have to use that information to decide which type of genre that particular books fits into.

Finally, your child will be recalling details from other books in the same genre, making connections between the two.

This simple activity that might take 5-10 seconds of your time after reading a book but it certainly packs a punch of thought and processing in that young brain!

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.

Remember, our goal is for our children to learn to comprehend what they’re reading…otherwise reading will honestly do them little good.

When we encourage our children to think about and process the book we’ve just read together, we are inadvertently modeling what we hope they’ll one day do independently!


Read Also: How To Build Independent Reading Skills During Vacation



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.

Once your child recognizes the word “mop”, he’ll then have an advantage to reading all of the other words that have the same rime (top, pop, stop, cop, hop) because only one letter is changing.

Plus, recognizing rhyming words is a great language skill in and of itself!



“Phonemes” are the smallest sounds in the English language.

These sounds are made up of consonants, short vowels, long vowels, and digraphs.

“Phonemic Awareness” consists of learning those sounds and how to manipulate them within a word.

Digraphs are unique sounds comprised of individual letters like /th/, /sh/, /ch/, etc.

“Phonics” includes learning how to spell those sounds and the various rules that the English language follows.

Phonics is an important component 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.



Decoding is often referred to as “sounding it out.”

This is an important element in teaching your child to read, but it certainly isn’t the most important.

Once your child knows the sounds each letter makes, she is ready to begin putting words together.

When looking at a short word, encourage her to say each individual sound /b/, /a/, /t/, and then put them together “bat”.

As children decode words with more frequency, they will become more proficient at automatically identifying that word.

Sometimes this task is tedious, though, so it’s important to find creative ways to make it fun.



Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are the most common words in our written language are often difficult to decode phonetically because they don’t follow the rules of phonics.

Because of this, they must be memorized.

Sight words must be memorized in order for your child to become a fluent reader.

There are a few popular lists of sight words that individual researchers have found beneficial, including the Dolche List and the Fry List. Don’t get overwhelmed when looking at this list…just start working on a few sight words at a time when you feel your child is ready.

Activities like Sight Word Bingo can help make memorizing sight words more fun!



A text-rich environment for preschoolers lays the groundwork for reading success.

It’s not just about having books in the home, although that’s a great start.

You can also start talking about letters, numbers, and words on packages and signs.

Help your child see how text is already a part of his daily life. Point out the name of his favorite cereal.

Show him the labels on clothing. Show him the different parts of a birthday card or invitation.

When you are out and about, play games involving letter and number recognition.

Can your child tell you any of the letters in the supermarket sign? Can she read the serving amount on a packaged snack? She will be delighted to understand more about her world — but don’t push her delight.

Developing text awareness should never be a chore.


Read Also: Strategies For Teaching Kids to Read



Are you concerned that your child might have a learning disability?

As with almost any disability, early intervention can prevent problems in the future.

In the preschool years, speech delays are much more noticeable than the learning disabilities that may affect a child’s efforts to read.

Ask your pediatrician for advice if you are concerned that your child is speech delayed.

Most school districts will not diagnose reading disabilities until first grade.

However, there are signs that you can look for earlier.

If your 5-year-old can’t “hear” the rhyme in two simple words, or cannot differentiate between a letter and a random squiggle, this may be an area of development you’ll want to keep an eye on.



As you’ve probably noticed, there is no “magic formula” to teach your child how to read.

The points we’ve discussed are 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!

Leave a comment below and let’s learn from you also.

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