Help Your Child Learn to Read

image credit: Sarah Houghton

Children are exposed to print everyday of their lives. Letters and words are on the toys that they play with as well as in the books that we read to them. Although printed letters and words may be all around them, children need to be taught the role that printed words will play in their lives.

Reading Aloud to Children

Here are some suggestions for reading aloud to children:

  1. The best time to begin reading aloud to your children is when they are infants. Babies as young as 1 month old enjoy being read to and looking at pictures in books. By age two or three, children begin to develop an awareness of printed letters and words. They see their parents and other adults around them reading and writing everyday in a variety of contexts for a variety of purposes.
  2. Make reading books enjoyable. Choose a cozy and comfortable place where you can sit together. Be enthusiastic about reading. When children enjoy being read to, they want to learn to read.
  3. Read to children frequently. Establish regular times for reading during the day. Start or end the day with a book.
  4. Help them make observations and predictions. Explain words they may not know. Point out how the pictures in the book relate to the story. Find ways to relate the book you are reading to what your child is doing in his/her life.
  5. Encourage children to talk about the book. Answer their questions. Welcome their observations and add to what they say. Tell your child new information that will help them to understand and enjoy the book more.
  6. Re-read favorite books. Children love to hear their favorite books again and again! This helps them understand and notice new things. When you point out some letters and words as you read the book repeatedly, children will begin to recognize specific words and specific letter-sound relationships.

Teaching about Books

Help your child learn how to hold a book and show them that we read from front to back and that we go through a book page by page. As you read from big books, show children the direction that we read by pointing to the first word on a line and running your finger beneath the words as you read from left to right and from top to bottom.

Teaching about the Sounds of Spoken Language

The name of the ability to notice and manipulate the sounds in language is phonological awareness. Research shows that how quickly children learn to read often depends on how much phonological awareness they have acquired by kindergarten.

Here are some things that you can do to help children learn about sounds in words:

  1. Choose books to read aloud that focus on sounds, rhyming, and alliteration
  2. Have your child sing or say a familiar nursery rhyme or song. Repeat it and raise your voice on words that rhyme. Then have your child join in, saying the rhyming words with you.
  3. Draw your child’s attention to the sounds of his or language with silly songs and poems. Include favorites such as Down by the Bay, by Raffi and If You’re Happy and You Know It by Nicki Weiss.
  4. Read and re-read stories that play with language. Some excellent books include There’s a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss and More Spaghetti, I Say! By Rita Gelman.
  5. Have your child listen to and chant along with stories on tape. Make your own tape or songs and stories for your child to enjoy.
  6. Substitute and delete letters from common words to create your own silly sayings,. For example, substitute B for J to change Jim eats jam to Bim eats bam.

Teaching about the Connection Between Sounds and Letters

Before children learn to read, they need to understand the connection between sounds and letters. Teaching your child to say and write the ABCs is not enough. Children need to hear and practice letter sounds as they see and write the symbols.

Here are some suggestions to help your child associate sounds to letters:

  1. Construct letters using various materials such as macaroni, clay, or pipe cleaners. Have your child say the corresponding sounds as he/she feels each letter.
  2. Have your child match letters to objects in the house. For example, place a plastic letter B on the a bed, T on a table, and F on the floor.
  3. Draw your child’s attention to letters and words in his/her environment, such as  cereal boxes, signs on the highway, and menus at a restaurant.

Building Children’s Background Knowledge and Thinking Skills

The more children know about their world, the easier it is for them to learn to read by the time they go to school. You have an important role to play in helping your children learn new information, ideas and vocabulary. You can help children to connect new information and ideas to what they already know and understand.

Here are some things you can do to help you child build knowledge:

  1. Provide them with opportunities to explore and experiment. Cooking teaches about substances and how they change by heating, mixing etc. Children learn about plants by planting seeds and helping with gardening. Children learn about social situations and interactions through play dates and through dramatic play.
  2. Share informational books. Children enjoy learning about the world. They enjoy looking at books that interest them. There are many wonderful informational picture books at your local library.

—Kristine Rutkowski, M.A.CCC-SLP

1 Response to “Help Your Child Learn to Read”


  1. 1 Lori Warner, Ph.D. September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Thanks for this posting! Lots of very useful information for our families!


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