How do I Teach My Child to Read?

How Do I Teach My Child To Read

This is a question I get a lot, via email and in comments ~ “How do I teach my child to read?”  Although I have only taught one child to read from birth 😉 and am working on my 2nd and 3rd, I did teach many children to read while teaching Kindergarten for 5 years! Teaching reading is one of my favorite things in life-I just love when a young child finally makes the connection and gets excited about the new world opened up before them in BOOKS!

My answers may not jive with you, and especially those of you who have different views based on your own successes and failures with teaching reading. I’d love to open up the comments below so we can all share together. There are no RIGHT or WRONG ways to teach reading-every child is different and every teacher/parent is different. There are many ideas and we can all glean wisdom from one another. I am even open to learning still-although I am college educated in this subject! Learning as a teacher is never ending!IMG_3670 copy

So, how did I teach public school children and my own son to read {and how am I currently teaching Krash}?

I use a mixture of a Whole Language approach, along with phonics . For those of you unfamiliar with the different approaches, here is Wikipedia on the topic of Whole Language. Here is a basic definition,

A whole-language approach represents a philosophy about reading rather than any one instructional method. According to this philosophy, language is a natural phenomenon and literacy is promoted through natural, purposeful language function. It has as its foundation current knowledge about language development as a constructive, meaning-oriented process in which language is viewed as an authentic, natural, real-world experience, and language learning is perceived as taking place through functional reading and writing situations.” (p. 458) (Lapp, D. & Flood, J. (1992). Teaching reading to every child. (3rd ed.). New York: Macmilliam Publishing Company.)

Here are a few more links if you want some in depth info about the subject and the different methods…

I taught Kindergarten for 3 years with a Whole Language approach and for 1 1/2 years with a Phonics approach {the school I was teaching with switched to Open Court} so I have seen all types of kids use both methods. Since I was college educated during the Whole Language movement, I was actually taught to an extreme. I remember being at the NAEYC conference and sitting in a workshop about how horrible Letter of the Week programs were! Anything that pulled letters, sounds, etc. out of natural context was BAD BAD BAD! I didn’t completely buy into that theory and then a few years later when a phonics method was forced upon me, I naturally learned to balance the two.

When it came time to teach Pac Man to read, I knew I had actually already started to teach him. When literacy is integrated into a child’s life from birth, reading is a natural progression. Pac Man was not an eager reader, and did not read early, but he is a wonderful reader now. I believe strong comprehension makes a wonderful reader! This is where I feel a Whole Language approach greatly benefits children. Pac Man has good phonics knowledge and continues to learn more and more, but most importantly he has great comprehension.


What exactly do we do?

We READ!!!!! Seriously, that is the very best thing you can do to teach your child to read. Teach Mama has a wonderful reading section on her blog. Another great blog to read is This Reading Mama, who also shares a very similar philosophy.

Here are a few basic pointers to get you started…

  • Read to your child multiple times daily {I know this seems like a DUH point, but seriously, don’t slack on this}. Read with enthusiasm, talk about the text {increase comprehension}, ask questions, discuss the pictures, point out letters and words, and enjoy the read aloud time together!
  • Integrate reading and literacy activities into normal life as much as possible, in a fun way! One simple idea is to begin doing a Morning Message with your child{ren}. This is something I did as a Kindergarten teacher, and then adapted for P when he was younger. I need to start this back up now that K is in this stage!
  • Have some easy readers available for your child who is interested in learning to read. If you are short on cash, print off your own or even make your own. I include a free printable easy reader with each Raising Rock Stars Preschool unit! Even if you don’t use the entire program, you can print just the mini books! There are also many online for free, here’s a few on Hubbards Cupboard. If you are interested in purchasing some easy readers, here is our Amazon bookstore with our favorites {you’ll notice some are phonics based, some aren’t}.
  • Work on sight words! Learning sight words is a big part of learning to read and really helps a child with confidence! The You Can Read program I developed is focused completely on teaching sight words in a fun way to young children.image
  • Integrate phonics into your teaching, but not in an unnatural and forceful way…try to make it fun! Work with word families {cat, mat, rat, pat, etc.}, teach phonetic sounds, watch Leapfrog Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Code Word Caper. Bob Books are a great tool for working on letter sounds while learning to read! Here’s a post I did about teaching short vowel sounds. Word Families are another way to emphasize phonics.
  •  Starfall is an amazing and free website that we used TONS with Pac Man and now use with Krash and even Ladybug a little bit!


All children are different and some will benefit from a strong Whole Language approach with minimal phonics instruction. Another child will be totally lost without direct phonics instruction. I think an approach that attempts to merge the two is a great place to start and then you can adjust as you see fit. Also-almost all kids will catch up with each other by 2nd or 3rd grade. Just because your friend’s 3 year old can read and yours can’t- don’t stress!!! Krash is WAY more interested in reading than Pac Man ever was. However even at age 4 I am not pushing Krash. He will learn at his own pace and I am in no big rush to push him. Pac Man caught on slowly but once he caught on he went wild ~ quickly! He now has the most amazing comprehension skills, vocabulary, and reading ability!

As for an actual program for homeschool, I began reviewing All About Reading in 2011 and love it.


You can see more about why we chose to review this program here in our Current Curriculum post, look under FAQ. Ladybug is using All About Reading Pre Level 1, and Krash is using All About Reading Level 1.  If you feel the need to have a complete program to assist you I highly recommend All About Reading.  You can see all of my posts including All About Reading here.

Technology is another great tool when it comes to learning to read!  We personally own an iPad and use it a LOT for schooling.  You can see many great literacy apps for children here in my educational iPad apps post, and also here in iPad Apps part 2!

If you have more questions that I did not answer, feel free to leave a comment. Also-if you have input-please jump in, I am certainly not the only one who knows something about teaching kids to read!!! I highly recommend seeking out other moms online who are also educated in this area {educated either by college or experience}.

A few more reading related posts:

Happy Teaching!!!

This post was originally written in June 2010, it has since been updated in 2012, and again in 2014