How To Teach Your Child To Read

How to teach your child to read

Reading is an enjoyable pastime for children when they can read. Most kids eyes will light up with excitement as they eagerly open a new book, but when they can’t read, it becomes a drudgery and heavy burden. It makes me sad to see a child heave a big sigh when it comes time for him to read.

How You Don’t Want Your Child to Read

Your child reluctantly opens a book and starts reading the words that he recognizes. Everything is fine with the first few words that he can read, until he encounters a word that he has never seen before. He looks at the first letter and sometimes uses the context of what he is reading to take a guess at the word. Most of the time, it is the wrong word. Why does he do this?

Because he was not taught to decode the letters by sounding them out. He was taught that reading is memorizing, then recognizing the sight or high frequency words. The problem with this, is that there are about a million words in the English language. What happens if your child has poor memory and recall? He won’t be able to remember many words and this will affect his ability to read.

Phonics and Decoding First

The better way, is to teach phonics and decoding first, then to teach sight and high frequency words. This way, your child’s brain will be relieved from the onerous task of memorizing so many words. Whichever word he doesn’t recognize, he can then sound it out. Think about it, when you don’t know a word, what’s the first thing you do?

You try to break it up into cv or cvc chunks and sound the chunks out. Take the word hypochondriac as an example. If you have never seen this word before, you would break it up into hy – po – chon – dri – ac and decode each chunk. If your child can do this to any word, then he can easily read without having to memorize a large number of words. It all starts with the basic sound of each letter of the alphabet. You might want to start there first. Below are examples of some activities that your child could do to learn the sound of s.

Phonic Activities for the Letter ‘S’
  • Use a flashcard with the letter ‘S’

Show the flashcard, clearly say the letter s sound and have your child repeat it. Do this again throughout the day. Towards the end of the day, instead of telling your child what the sound is, begin to ask what sound it makes, and have your child respond.

  • Play with the letter ‘S’

Write s in the sand, and as your child is writing it as well, pretend it’s a snake and make the s sound. Instead of sand, you can also use play dough. Roll the play dough into a long coil, pretend it’s a snake and form it into the letter s, then make the s sound.

  • Identify items that start with the ‘S’ sound

Select some things around the house that start with the s sound, such as sock, spoon and sandal. Show these to your child and say that these starts with the sound s. Then say the names while stressing on the letter s such as ssssock, sssspoon and ssssandal. You can extend this further and have a hunt by going around the house and finding other things that start with the s sound.

  • Practice writing the letter ‘S’

Have your child trace the letter s so she can write it on her own. Remember to say the sound of the letter s as she writes it. If you would like a free copy of ‘My Phonics Trace and Color Book’, click HERE to subscribe and get your copy.

  • Make a craft of the letter ‘S’

Search online for crafts to make with the letter s. You can do a search on a snake or spider craft. As your child is doing the craft, don’t forget to reinforce the sound that the word makes at the beginning.

Sight and High Frequency Words Second

Once your child knows how to decode words then you can start teaching him to memorize sight and high frequency words. Since there are words in the English language that cannot be sounded out (such as ‘the’ and ‘what’), it can only be taught by memorization. There are also words that occur so often in books, that it is quicker to memorize (such as ‘and’ and ‘can’). Below are some activities for the sight word ‘and’.

Activities for the Sight Word ‘and’
  • Use a flashcard

Download free Dolch cards and print out the ones containing the word ‘and’. Alternatively, you can simply make your own by writing the word ‘and’ onto a card. Use this as you would in the activity for phonics.

  • Spell the word

Use play dough or magnetic letters to spell the word ‘and’.

  • Identify the word ‘and’

Select a simple book, read the words by pointing to each word. When you come to the word ‘and’, stop and let your child read and recognize it, then continue on reading. Alternatively, find a magazine or flyer and have your child circle all the ‘and’ words that she finds.

  • Practice writing the ‘and’ word

Download a worksheet from the internet with the word ‘and’ and have your child practice writing the word.

  • Make a book of ‘and’

Staple some paper together, and find pictures from magazines, or have your child draw them. On one page stick or draw two things, and underneath the pictures, write the words, ‘A boy and a girl’ (if the pictures are of a boy and a girl). Continue in this manner until you have enough to make a book. Once it is completed, have your child read it by pointing to each word.

These are a few activities to get you started. They are easily adapted to other letters and words. Armed with these two reading strategies, your child can begin the wonderful journey into reading.

If you would like your child to be an enthusiastic reader then look out for my book ‘First Steps in Teaching Your Child to Read’. If you would like a copy of Free Alphabet Cards With Letters Only, click HERE to be taken to my blog for two free downloads! Don’t forget to subscribe HERE if you would like to get a free copy of ‘My Phonics Trace and Color Book’ on my teaching site.

4 thoughts on “How To Teach Your Child To Read”

  1. Assalaamu Alaikum,

    Wonderful article, i came across at the right time as i was preparing for teaching phonics to my

  2. Hi..
    At what age is suitable to start teach a child to read?
    Would love to get the Phonic Trace and Color Book.
    Thank You..

    1. Hi, it really depends on your child. Each child develops at a different rate but on average, I’ve found that children are ready to begin to learn by 3 years of age. You’ll get one or two that are ready before this and a few ready after this. If you’ve prepared your child (see previous articles) then it’s most likely that s/he’ll be ready by 3.

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