Teach Your Kid to Read!

Learn the essentials of teaching kids to read, and find learning resources to help when you need a break.

How to Teach Your Kid to Read

When we think about fundamental skills that all students need to know, reading is probably at the top of the list. Once kids can read on their own, they can learn any number of other subjects, so a solid grasp of reading is absolutely critical to future learning.

But where to start? Isn't always easy to know. And even when you decide how to start, when should you start?

Fortunately, there are easy answers to these.

When to start: now! It's really never too early to start reading to kids, and believe it or not, reading to them is the best way to start teaching them how to read.

Note: the following method is what's worked for us, but there are certainly other, more formal methodologies available, so if you want a more rigid approach, check out our Reading Topic Page.

So, just find some books you think they'll be interested in, and get down to business! Many youngsters will get attached to a few books and want you to read them over and over again...this is okay! It may drive you a little nuts, but eventually, they'll get tired of the book, and let you move on to something else, so just hang in there. :D

As you read to your child, eventually they may take an interest and want to try reading the book themselves - encourage this! For kids who like to read the same book over and over, they may even be "faking" reading because they've already memorized the book, but that's fine. As they see the same words over and over again while they read them, eventually they'll start to sink in.

The key thing to start doing here is to help them start learning pronunciation gently. English has a lot of baffling and contradictory pronunciation rules, but in books geared to young readers, you won't find too many of those, so focus on helping kids learn what sounds the letters make and trying to sound out the word. If they have trouble with a word, walk them through the sounds each syllable makes, and then ask them to put those sounds together. In the beginning, you may have to give them the sounds and then ask them to put them together, but as they progress you can ask them what each letter or syllable sounds like, and then ask them to guess what they sound like when put together. It'll be tough at first, but with some practice, they'll pick it up quickly.

A couple of key points here:

  • As soon as possible, ask them to attempt to sound out the word on their own. This gets them in the habit, so they don't rely on your to read the word or sound it out for them
  • Don't go too far too fast! If they're having trouble with too many words per sentence, they will get frustrated - if you start to sense this, take some of the load off and just help them on some of the words (but still ask them to do it on their own occasionally)
  • Choose books that aren't too hard. If your child is struggling with many words per sentence, the book is probably too advanced for them. Put that book back on the shelf and save it for a few months down the line, or make that one of your "I'll read this for you" books. Also avoid books that are too easy.
  • Choose books that aren't too easy. If your child can blow through most pages without struggling with any words, it's time to move on to something harder. If that's their favorite book, it's fine, you can still read it with them, but choose another, harder book to go with it.
  • Once you've helped your child sound out the word, ask if they know what it means. If they don't know, ask them to guess. This will help them to start thinking about using context to determine word meaning which is an essential skill as they expand the types of books they're reading. Again, don't do this too often, or they'll get frustrated. Try to focus on the more basic words you think they really need to know first.

You may have noticed a pattern here - the key in helping kids learn to read is to challenge them without frustrating them. It's a tricky balance, but one you'll get better with as you read with your little one.

Make it a habit

So, now that you know what to do, how often should you do it?

Try to read to them every day, or at least every weekday (weekends tend to be hard to manage, but if you can do it, go for it!) Reading before bed often works well to help kids settle down, and it's a great time to sit close and cuddle and bond as you read. Reading first thing in the morning can work well on weekends also. When it comes down to it, just do it as often as possible but as long as it still feels natural and your kids don't feel like it's "work."

Are comic books okay?

The kind of books you should read with your kids is really a personal choice. First and foremost, follow the guidelines above about finding the right difficulty level, and then you can choose the types of books that you think are appropriate.

Many books for young readers are illustrated, and as kids advance in their reading some parents try to push them towards books without illustrations and especially away from comic books.

Our take on comic books: check out the books themselves before turning them down. For instance, our little one loved the Dog Man serious of comics. These do have some potty humor and are definitely true comic books, but if you look at the vocabulary in these books, they are actually quite challenging for young readers. The Phoebe and Her Unicorn series are likewise challenging for young readers while also being quite funny. So, don't turn your nose up at comics automatically! When you find your little one asking for the next book in the series and you know it'll have more challenging words, then your mission is accomplished!

Are there resources that can help?

You're on Learnamic, so of course there are! Check out the following topic pages to find tons of apps, YouTube videos, worksheets, books, and more to help your kids learn letters and their sounds, pronunciation rules, vocabulary, and much more:

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