Teaching your child to read is such an exciting adventure, but can also feel like a pretty high-stakes endeavor.
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 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 teaching 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’m delighted to partner with I Can Read! books to share some of our best strategies and I hope these tips will be helpful for other families too!
5 Tips for Teaching 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. Use real stories along with a curriculum.
I’ve used the same curriculum with both girls (Phonics Pathways) and really love it, but while it’s great for teaching the fundamentals, it’s not as fun as reading an actual book with full-color illustrations and story lines.
The I Can Read! books are widely recognized as the best beginning reader books, and my girls LOVE them. They are organized into color-coded levels so you can easily pick the ones that are at the right level for your child. Right now, the “My First: Shared Reading” and “Level 1: Beginning Reading” are about right for Ani and they are aimed at children going into kindergarten and first grade who are just learning to read.
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, favorites, and you can even download character-centric printables to go along with the books).).
I’ve found that my children almost never want to practice reading from the workbook on their own, but when I give them a book like the I Can Read! books, they’ll spend ages sounding words out on their own because they love reading a REAL book and watching the story unfold.
Combining that fun reading at their level along with a curriculum is really a killer duo.
3. 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 is 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.
4. 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 Ani read words in the books here and there, if she’s interested.
5. 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!
If you have tips for teaching your child to read, I’d love to hear them!
Photos by Christie Knight Photography