Learn to read programs with manuals, workbooks, flashcards, and videos are great resources for parents and teachers to support their young kids in embarking on one of the most wonderful journeys in a kid’s life: the journey to unlocking the key to stories. Whatever stories they like. Stories full of humor, whimsy, real-life, friendships…stories that keep kids coming back for more and more.
If you could, on this learn-to-read journey, start with those engaging stories—wouldn’t you? After teaching three kids to read (my youngest is still working on it) almost exclusively from reading real books, the following are my best tips. Note that while they are broken down by age group, kids develop skills at different times and that’s totally normal.
Form reading habits: This is a great age to establish a reading habit such as a bedtime read-aloud, an after dinner reading hour, or an afternoon quiet hour.
Introduce basic mechanics: While reading aloud with your youngster, show them how to turn pages, that the squiggly lines on the page form words and the words on the page don’t change, and that you read from left to right (use your finger to follow along while reading).
Okay, here are the biggies for this age group…
Learn the alphabet and letter sounds:
ABC books: My favorites are still…
The ABC Book by Dr. Seuss
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Hint: Sometimes read these book by saying the letter sounds instead of the letter names. The rhyme will be lost that way, but it’s an easy way to reinforce learning.
Videos are a great tool for learning the alphabet and letter sounds as well. Our favorites are:
The Letter Factory by Leapfrog
Meet the Phonics: Letter Sounds by Preschool Prep (available on You Tube (273) Meet the Phonics - Letter Sounds (FREE) | Preschool Prep Company - YouTube)
Books with big font size: Try asking your child to point or touch letters you call out. “Can you find a B on this page?” or “Can you touch a word that starts with the “b” sound?” Because their eyes are growing and their visual discrimination is not fully developed yet, try to avoid doing this with books with a very small font size. A couple of my favorites are:
Where’s the Poop? By Julie Markes, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung (bonus potty training!)
I’m Going to Catch My Tail by Jimbo Matison
Encourage them to “read aloud”: So that they get used to actively participating in reading, encourage them to “read” words. While reading their favorite books, try pausing and letting them supply the word you aren’t saying. Put your finger under the word so they know which one they are “reading.” This works especially well with any book they have partially memorized, books with repetitive words or phrases, and rhyming books. My favorites are:
Hop on Pop and most Dr. Seuss books
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean
At the Old Haunted House by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by Nate Wragg
After the letter sounds are mostly learned, you can start teaching your child to blend the sounds together to form words. This is usually the biggest step between pre-reading and actual reading and often happens sporadically anywhere between three and seven years of age. With your finger under words while reading aloud, make the individual sounds and then blend them together to form the word. Have your child make the individual sounds and try to “smoosh” the sounds together. Don’t worry if they can’t hear or understand what the final word should be. That’s the sporadic development part.
If you would like a program on how to teach reading, take a look at Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Amazon.com: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: Revised and Updated Second Edition: 8601421562775: Engelmann, Siegfried, Haddox, Phyllis, Bruner, Elaine: Books
You can follow this book lesson by lesson and/or take the methods from the book and apply while reading fun books with your child.
Practice “sounding it out”:
When first introducing this skill, start with words containing only single letter phonograms (one letter makes one sound). Digraphs (two letters representing a single sound, such as “ay” or “sh”) are very common in English and as such books almost always contain these words, even in beginning readers or leveled readers (just try writing a story without the word ‘the’). But no worries! You can still have your child practice sounding it out while reading real books. Tips:
Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel
Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems
Progressive Phonics Beginner Books available for free here Progressive Phonics - Beginner
Introduce advanced phonics:
After your child starts to get the hang of sounding out words, even if they aren’t quite blending yet, you can start introducing the idea of “letter combos,” the silent ‘e’, and long vowels. If you want to educate yourself on phonics, I like Denise Eide’s The Logic of English which covers the most common phonics rules in an accessible way. But here are some tips for introducing these three ideas for a beginning reader to be able to read the most common words:
Once those ideas are introduced, you and your child together will be able to practice many words in real books. I like using The Primer by Margaret Free and Harriette Taylor Treadwell (available for free Reading--literature (googleusercontent.com)) to practice bringing it all together, especially after the child has begun to blend sounds into words. Below is a video I recently made of my youngest child practicing reading with me using The Primer.
Any book works, though. As you’re reading together, focus on the stage your child is at and introduce new ideas slowly. Reading takes a lot of practice. Thankfully there are many wonderful books to enjoy. Happy reading!