• emmacohan

10 Tips For Understanding The Basic's Of Learning To Read.

As parents we don't think about the process of learning to read until we decide to start teaching our own children at home. If that's not a wake up call of what is happening? I need help ASAP! I don't know what is.

Believe it or not, learning to read is not a natural process that happens all on its own. It's quite a complex one that I wish someone had given me a handbook on. It requires the proper teaching of various skills and strategies in a particular order, like phonics (knowing the relationship between letters and sounds) and phonemic awareness.

The good news is that although reading in itself is quite a complex process, the steps you can take in order to build these skills with your child are fairly simple and straightforward. In order to teach your child how to read and make it a positive and rewarding experience, I suggest you try out these simple and time‑tested strategies below. Some of these were the things that my friends and my mom group told me about, while others I learnt from online research and what my son did in preschool.

1. Children's songs and nursery rhymes help build up phonemic awareness

Children's songs and nursery rhymes aren't just a lot of fun. The rhyme and rhythm help kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words, which helps them learn to read. Remember the good old wheels on the bus go round and round? (Are you now singing that in your head?)

songs like that are a fun way to build phonemic awareness.

Another one of the most important skills in learning to read, is to clap your hands rhythmically together and recite the songs in unison. This playful and bonding activity is a fantastic way for your child to develop the literacy skills that will set them up for reading success in the future.

2. Make simple 3 letter word cards at home

Cut out simple cards or use index cards. Write a word containing three sounds on each one (e.g. cat, rat, ram, sat, pig, top, sun, pot, fin). Invite your child to choose a card, then read the word together and hold up three fingers. Ask them to say the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, and then the third. This simple activity requires little prep‑time and builds essential phonics and decoding skills (helping them learn how to sound out words).

If your child is just starting out with learning the letters of the alphabet, focus on the sound each letter makes, more so than the letter names. If you have alphabet letters or cards you can teach your child the sounds by holding up the letter. You can find alphabet songs on the internet, which will really help. Teach your child the upper case letters first. Once they have mastered those, move onto the lowercase letters with the letter sounds. At elementary school they learn to write upper case letters first. A great handwriting series we used was the handwriting without tears series to practice letter writing. Check it out on Amazon.

3. Surround your child in a print-rich environment

As a parent we can create many opportunities every day, right in our own homes to build our child's reading skills. If we provide them with a print‑rich environment, For instance hanging printed word posters on their bedroom or playroom walls along with placing books within reach or having printed labels dotted around like in the kitchen. All these things enable our child to see and apply connections between the letter symbols and sounds. When you venture outside, remember to point out letters on the street signs, bus-stop posters and billboards.

As your child progresses you can start to model, sounding out the letters to make words. By focusing on just the first letter in a word, you can ask your child:

“What sound is that letter?”

“Is there any other words that start with that sound?”

“What word rhymes with that word?”

4. For fun play word games at home or in the car

Start to introduce simple word games on a regular basis. Just focus on playing games that encourage your child to listen, identify and manipulate the sounds in words that they hear. Start by asking some questions like

“What sound does the word __________ start with?”

“What sound does the word ____________ end with?”

“What words start with the sound _____________?” and

“What word rhymes with _____________?"

5. Understanding the core skills to teach your child to read

As a parent it is very important to remember that learning to read involves following a set of different skills. Did you know there are five essential components of reading? These five skills are needed in order to successfully learn how to read.

  1. Phonemic awareness – is the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds in words.

  2. Phonics – is recognizing the connection between letters and the sounds that they make

  3. Vocabulary – is understanding the meaning of words, their definitions, and the context they are used in.

  4. Reading comprehension – is understanding the meaning of the text in front of them, both in storybooks (Fiction) and information (Non-fiction) books.

  5. Fluency – is the ability to read aloud with speed, word understanding and accuracy

6. Use letter magnets to teach one vowel and two vowel words

Once your child has mastered the basic reading skills, reading middle vowel sounds can be tricky for some children, which is why one vowel activities like this one can be very helpful in the beginning.

  1. Set up the letter magnets on a magnetic board or the fridge and place all the vowels to one side (a, e, i, o, u).

  2. Next say a CVC word (consonant-vowel-consonant), for example a good one is 'cat'.

  3. Ask your child to sound it out phonically and then spell it using the magnets. To reinforce the vowel, help them say each vowel sound aloud (/ayh/, /eh/, /ih/, /awe/, /uh/) while pointing at its letter.

  4. Ask your child which one makes a sound similar to the middle sound.

  5. Build the word together. Repeat with other 3 letter words.

When explaining two vowel words, I found a great rule in a reading program I purchased and will be reviewing later on in my blog. The rule is to explain to your child that sometimes we have words with two vowels in them.

This is the rule:

When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and it says it's own name. The second vowel goes to sleep.

Whoever thought of that saying is a genius and it demonstrates the two vowel rule perfectly.

For a two vowel activity, I would write two vowel words and then have my son cross out the second (silent vowel) until he understood the two vowel rule concept.

7. Harnessing the power of technology to keep your child engaged

I know we don't want our child using an ipad all the time. However learning to read should be an enjoyable process in order to keep kids motivated to improve their reading skills. In some instants your child might be full of excitement and eagerness to learn at the beginning, but once they hit a wall in the learning journey, it can feel overwhelming and they give up easily. As a parent, I know it can feel impossible to pick them back up again and know where to fill in any gaps that may be causing frustration. Enter an array of learning to read apps. I will be doing some blog reviews on what we used with my son. Reading Eggs was one of them.

8. Read together on a daily basis and ask questions about the book

To strengthen your child's comprehension skills ask them questions while reading or after you finish the book. For younger children, encourage them to engage with the pictures in the book (For example “Do you see the dog? What color is the cat?”). For older children, ask questions about what you've just read, like “Why do you think the dragon was afraid?” “When did James realize he had special powers?”

9. Play games to memorize high-frequency sight words every day

Sight words are tricky, they are the words that cannot be easily sounded out and need to be recognized on sight. Some of them are called high‑frequency sight words. These are the ones that occur often in reading and writing (for example you, I, am, we, had, and, the, to, they, have, was, where, does).

A great approach for learning sight words is, "See the word, say the word". It is essential for young children to learn to identify and read sight words to become fluent readers. Most children by the age of four will be able to learn a few sight words (For example it, is, my, me, see, we and no.) By the end of their first year of elementary school they should know around 20 sight words. You can teach your child sight words by playing with flashcards, playing bingo style sight word games and using reading programs on your electronic devices.

10. Be patient with your child; Make learning to read fun! It's the best way to teach kids to read

I'm sure you know that every child learns at his or her own pace, so always remember the single most important thing you can do as the parent and that is to make learning any skill fun and enjoyable.


By following the tips and reading regularly together, mixing things up with different activities, games and letting your child pick out their own books. You can instill an early love of reading and give your child the best chance at reading success

Comment below with the tip(s) you found most helpful or let me know on my Facebook page if you have any more tips.

Thanks for reading,

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