One question I often get asked from new moms is how, what, when and sometimes if they should teach their children to read.  I understand.  I, too struggled to figure out the mystery that was teaching my children to read for a number of years.   Like potty training and nursing everyone seems to have an opinion and a perfect way to approach this.  I can’t claim that following my steps, really in anything, is the perfect approach, but I can say that these are the basic steps we’ve used and it has worked for all 4 of our very different children.

5 Steps for Teaching Your Child to Read

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Step 1:  Get them excited about reading.

Teach them to write their name, take them to the library frequently and let them pick out their own books, or teach them about the different parts of a book (spine, title page, author blurb and cover).  And of course, read to them, read to yourself and point out words in your everyday life (“This says ‘Stop’ for example).

Step 2:  Introduce them to the uppercase alphabet.

  • pointing to the letter tell them the name
  • have the child repeat what you say
  • tell them the sound and give them some opportunities to find something that starts with that sound, picking from a group of 3-5 objects
  • show them how to write the letter

Step 3:  Introduce them to the lowercase alphabet.

Repeat the same steps you did with the uppercase letters, but at this point, ask them to match the uppercase to the lowercase letters and also quiz them on the letter sounds using flashcards.


Step 4:  Introduce sight words. 

 Sight words are frequent use words they will be expected to know by sight.  Some examples of beginning sight words are: I, the, and, a, at, of, to.  You can play games like this one:

Or make up your own.  This was my son’s favorite game for learning letters and sight words.



Step 5:  Read.  

The last step is something you could and should do during the rest of the process and that is, of course, to read to them and encourage them to “read” on their own.  While reading, it can be helpful to point to each word as you read.  That helps them make the connection between the word on the page and the word you read.  It also helps them to see the method of reading: left to right, top to bottom.  It is also helpful to set up a time when they can look at books on their own.

A few points to consider:

Reading is a pretty complicated task.  If you were learning a new language you might easily mix up words, forget what someone has just told you and even get really frustrated and want to take a break.  It is no different for our kids.  They and we can benefit from this process of learning, but it will take a huge amount of patience and repetition.  Also, keep it short, remembering the typical attention span is still only 10-15 minutes, expecting much more than this is expecting too much of both of you.


Here are some of the resources we have found helpful throughout this process:

Hooked on Phonics-this program basically does all these steps for you.  We literally, just open the book and do what it tells us:)  We are pretty lazy/tired.  We have levels Pre-K through 2nd grade.  All levels, obviously, would help them to be proficient readers, but if you’re just starting out, I would recommend getting the Pre-K and Kindergarten pack.  This will take them through learning all their letters and quite a few sight words and word families.

Alphabet Flashcards-these are included in the phonics program.  You need something to test their knowledge, flashcards are one of the easiest ways to do that.  Make sure they have the upper and lower case letters.

Alphabet Bingo-I’m pretty sure my second daughter, who is addicted to sugar, learned her letters because she got to play bingo and eat the M&M’s we used as markers, afterwards.

I’m thinking of getting this one for my current preschool learner.  We love Spot it! and this would be a good way to review what we’ve already learned.  It would be a great tool for letting older siblings help teach as well.

Alphabet Writing workbooks-this is important for learning how to write the letters.

Bob Books-these are good for early readers, they feature a lot of sight words and are fairly short.  Being able to read a book all on their own does wonders for a kids motivation to read.


Like I said, there are many different approaches to teaching children to read, I certainly haven’t covered everything here, but I hope that you have come away knowing that you don’t need a degree in early childhood education to tackle this, what you really need is a few resources and some regular time set aside to spend with your child.  The rewards are indeed worth it.

What about you?  What are some simple ideas or resources you used to teach your kids to read?  


Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment below or on Facebook.