5 Tips for Teaching Your Child to Read

Teaching your child to read is such an exciting adventure, but can also feel like a pretty high-stakes endeavor.

teaching your child to read

Ella learned to read just after she turned four (due mostly to the fact that we were living in a rental house in Arizona and then in London with literally zero toys and there wasn’t much else to do).

Ani who is 7 and going into 2nd grade this fall didn’t really click with reading until this spring, after literally years of working on it together.

Star, who is entering kindergarten in the fall, is currently in the thick of learning to read and she’s becoming quite proficient at sounding things out, although she’s definitely not a fluent reader yet.

I’ve gotten many questions over the years about how to teach your child to read, and while there is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution, these are some tips that have been helpful for both of our girls so far.

I hope these tips will be helpful to your family too!

how to teach your child to read

5 Tips To TEach Your Child to Read

  1. Keep it low-stress. Because reading is such a fundamental part of education and daily life, it can feel like there is a lot of pressure on teaching your child to read. But I’ve found that my children respond much better when it’s pretty light-hearted and low-stress. We don’t usually do more than 10-15 minutes of practice per day and if they want to be done, I try not to push them to more. It’s really important to me that reading is positive for them, not something to dread.
  2. Integrate reading practice into daily life. I’ve found that casual integration of reading practice makes teaching your child to read much easier – when we’re driving in the car, we’ll point out letters on street signs or license plates. We have a set of magnetic letters and it’s fun to make words together on the fridge or back door. At the park, we might write short words in the dirt or sand or arrange rocks into letters. One of Ani’s favorite games when she was just starting to figure out sounding things out was having Bart or me write simple words on a notepad and letting her sound them out. Those daily habits reinforce what you’re practicing during more official reading time and also keep it fun.
  3. Keep reading aloud to them. Since learning to read is a lot of hard work, I always want to make sure I keep reading as a fun activity for my children. So we keep reading stacks of picture books, enjoying chapter books before bed, and listening to audiobooks in the car and during quiet time. Plus, all that reading helps reinforce vocabulary, sentence structure, and storytelling formats. I also like to have my girls read words in the books here and there, if they’re willing.
  4. Be consistent. I’ll be the first to admit that this is difficult and we aren’t always as consistent as I’d like, but working on reading a little every day or almost every day is a lot better than trying to do a huge chunk once or twice a week. Gradually, that practice builds on itself until your child is reading independently. And that feels like a massive parenting payday!
  5. Use real books along with a curriculum. I’ve used the same curriculum with all my girls (Phonics Pathways and 4 Weeks to Read) and really love both, but nothing is quite as fun as reading a book with characters your child already knows. Once my children have a strong foundation in the fundamentals of reading, it really keeps things exciting to start adding books they’re more familiar with. We own about 30-40 I Can Read! books (you can get 2 of them for $1) and I love that they’re organized into color-coded levels so you can easily pick the ones that are at the right level for your child. They have hundreds of titles and they’re such an easy sell for young readers because they feature characters your child probably already know (Pete the Cat and Frog & Toad and Fancy Nancy are some of our favorites). Practicing from a workbook isn’t nearly as fun as reading a “real” book. Combining that fun reading at their level along with a curriculum is really a killer duo.

If you have tips for how to teach your child to read, I’d love to hear them!

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Photos by Christie Knight Photography

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  1. I appreciate this information so much since I have an almost 7 year old who is struggling to read. We work on it daily but I know most of it is attitude. He would rather be playing with the neighbors or doing almost anything else. His older sister was more studious and interested in language and his older brother had several years of one on one speech therapy which happened to teach phonics. A broken year of Spanish immersion kindergarten & sad remote learning further complicated his reading ability. Maybe learning to read tips could be a regular series on your blog.

    1. One thing that’s worked really well for us is having reading practice time be at night before she goes to bed. She also would almost always choose another activity over reading, but she’ll FOR SURE pick reading over going to bed. Plus, as one of four children, that dedicated time with just one parent and no other siblings allowed is very magical.

  2. Thanks for the tip – We’ve been doing reading practice in the morning but will switch it to before bedtime.

  3. I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 easy lessons. Being consistent and having lots of patience is critical. I changed a few things and skipped the rhyming portion if it was too much that day. I would usually have two candy rewards to take one way and still have an incentive to finish if need be. It wasn’t always fun, but it worked, and all four of them love to read now.

    On another note, I enjoy reading your book recommendations. My kids have enjoyed many books I wouldn’t have otherwise found for them because of you!

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