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Help Your Child Learn to Read: Get Ready for K Through Play


So far, my kids have taught themselves how to read. They have help, of course. We borrow oodles of books from the library, and I read out loud to them every day. Mike also reads to them, when he is home. They learned basic phonics through the (affiliate link – links to books in this post are also affiliate links) LeapFrog: Letter Factory DVD, but everything else has been picked up through everyday reading, listening, and writing.

Get them writing

It doesn’t have to be writing real letters or words; the point is to have them thinking about storytelling. Journaling for littles can mean all sorts of different things, but it definitely promotes literacy development! Have them write thank you cards for gifts – even before they can write letters!

Read out loud – and listen to them read!

Sitting with your child reading pictures books is one of the easiest ways for them to learn sight words! It is also wonderful parent-child bonding time.

Practice handwriting

I find that using white boards helps my kids feel more relaxed about making mistakes. If your child has trouble with smudging white board pens, window markers will erase with water from most white boards. My kids also enjoy tracing letters in workbooks.

Follow their lead

When my oldest daughter Emma started getting interested in reading, I got a copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and we started going through it. She enjoyed the first several lessons, and then started getting frustrated. So we set the book aside, and next thing I knew she was reading on her own. The early lessons gave her a good foundation, and she was able to take it from there on her own – at her own pace.

Respect their opinions on books

My daughter Emma skipped early readers all together and went straight to chapter books – starting with the Ramona books. She didn’t enjoy the early readers, and forcing her to stick with them may have made her dislike reading all together. She couldn’t read all of the words in the Ramona books the first time through, but she understood enough to get the general idea – and she has gone back and read the books in a more typical page-by-page (as opposed to skipping around) manner now. Skipping around clearly didn’t hurt her – she won the language arts award in her first grade class this year! My five-year-old son LOVES Bob Books and other early readers; he is as competent a reader as Emma was when she started reading chapter books, but for him being given a chapter book at this point would be a frustrating experience as he wants to be able to read and understand most or all of the words in books.

Be aware of possible underlying issues

If your child isn’t learning to read as quickly as you think they should, don’t pressure them. They may have an underlying issue that is making reading hard for them, or they may not be developmentally ready. Children gain different skills at different ages, and educational and medical professionals can help you figure out if there is any area where your child needs additional help. Reading interesting stories with your pre-reader (and continuing to read to them once they can read themselves) will help your child continue to see books as a fun piece of their life, while also building wonderful childhood memories.


How did your kids to learn to read?

Get Ready for K Through Play button

This post is the fifth of eight in the Get Ready for K Through Play series I am working on with Bernadette of Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas, Megan at Coffee Cups and Crayons, Vicky at Mess for Less, Cerys at Rainy Day Mum, and Kristina at Toddler Approved. Be sure to check out their posts as well!

Drop by our Get Ready for K Through Play Pinterest board for more ideas!

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

24 thoughts on “Help Your Child Learn to Read: Get Ready for K Through Play”

  1. Valuable tips and suggestions. My daughter read early but looks like my son might be more on time or late. Which is fine. I read late and I turned out okay : p My main goal with him is to keep things fun.

  2. I love your encouraging ideas! I am an elementary school teacher and can only imagine the difference in children’s lives if more parents took these steps. Thank you.

  3. That’s so great that your kids have taught themselves to read! I love that my son has become a reader. He used to resist the thought of reading but he loves it now.

  4. I am struggling a little with my son right just knowing what to do. He started off (over a year ago) loving to read and teaching himself basic reading. Then it seems like the interest totally vanished. He still loves to be read to, so that’s just what I’m focusing on right now, but not sure exactly what caused the interest then lack of interest… Maybe just 5 year old boy. ;-)

    1. He is pretty young, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. My guess is that he’s working on a different skill right now. He clearly loves books still, since he is enjoying being read to – and that will build his reading ability as well.

  5. My daughter will be starting Kindergarten this year, and although she likes reading she does not want to spell a word she does not know. She has a complete meltdown. I know some of it is because of her speech issues but she will not even try inventive spelling. Any ideas on how to help her relax and not think the end of the world is coming if she does not spell it right?

    1. My daughter had the same problem, and – for her – going to school and seeing peers invent spelling for words made a huge difference. I hope it will for your daughter as well!

  6. J doesn’t read yet, but he memorizes books. When we read together I try to point to the words as we read so he knows that the words look like.

  7. Younger kid journals amuse the heck out of me, it’s one of the projects I’m most likely to keep because they are fun to look at.

  8. Great post. We used a program called Your Baby Can Read to give our child a head start and it totally worked! Unfortunately they went out of business because of frivolous lawsuits. Would love to see a similar posting with ideas for math/numbers and learning a 2nd language.

  9. Elisa | blissfulE

    So true about not pushing them and making sure they have access to reading materials that interest them. I have used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with great success with three of my children so far; my top tip is that we always stop and go back to earlier lessons whenever it feels hard. And of course I only begin the lessons when they (a) know their phonics (we love Jolly Phonics’ Finger Phonics board books, and the sounds/songs can be found on YouTube), and when they (b) are begging to have their reading lessons!

  10. Great post on learning to read MaryAnne. You really set the foundation for getting your kids to teach themselves to read. I didn’t realize that writing was a necessary step until my kids hit Kindergarten and our teacher talked about the importance of phonetically spelling words or Invented Spelling. It was such an important piece of info for me that I posted the article word for word by retyping it: https://www.pragmaticmom.com/2010/09/invented-spelling-research-by-susan-sowers-froshus-dobrmn-pensr/

    You probably don’t need it but wanted to share since it really helped me.

  11. It’s funny you talk about journaling. Ava journals every single night. She started it on her own. She will write various things and then ask me what it says. I just make up things, you know?

    Basically, she writes lines and circles and some letters that she knows.

    Recently, we went out and took a nature walk and sketched what we saw in our journals. She traced leaves very well. Maybe the journaling – even though she can’t write, gives her confidence?

    Awesome post as usual Maryanne!

  12. Great ideas. I taught Anna to read using materials from Progressive Phonics website, but I also realized early on that she will not progress faster with pushing harder. This is the lesson that every parent needs to learn – pushing hard will frustrate and turn off your child.

    1. Yes! I’ve never gotten anywhere positive by pushing my kids. New approaches can make a huge difference, but pushing will not.

      Progressive Phonics is a great resource! I should let Johnny play around with it this summer. Thanks for reminding me about it!

  13. Wonderful tips! My 3yo started really reading with three-letter words and by practicing writing like you said. We would write words that are similar except maybe for one letter. So we’d start with writing “bat” and then later write “bet” and so forth. He then got the idea that all letters are are really symbols for sounds, and now he’s able to see a three-letter word and sound out the sounds based on that logic.

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