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How to Teach your child to read

By Nannette Richford ; Updated April 18, 2017
Making reading fun encourages a lifelong love of reading.

Teaching your child to read can be both rewarding and frustrating. Because each child learns at his own rate, there is some variability in the age when a child is ready to learn to read. Under normal circumstances, teaching your child to read before he enters school is discouraged because children typically are not ready to handle the task before school age. Some children, however, may show an interest in learning to read before they begin formal education. In this case, teaching your child the basics may be developmentally appropriate.

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Teach your child the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. Initially, you child should learn the sounds of consonants and then move on to the sounds of vowels. Begin with the "short" vowel sounds like the "a" sound in "cat" and "man." Once your child knows the consonant sounds and the short vowel sounds, he can sound out short words like "cat," "dog" and "run." Using computer software with interactive features allows your child to practice her reading skills.

Provide your little one with books written for beginning readers. These books contain words than can be sounded out easily and may be labeled "phonetic." Your child's teacher can provide you with a list of books appropriate for her reading level and offer you tips for helping her learn to read.

Write common sight words on index cards to familiarize your child with words that are used frequently but cannot necessarily be sounded out. These include words like "said," "one" and "be." You can find these words on either the Dolch or Fry sight words lists. This are typically arranged by grade level. If your child is attending school, ask the teacher which list she prefers. Although they are similar, they don't duplicate the same words or the same order for learning them. Introduce the next level once your child has mastered the current list.

Add words with the long vowel sounds, such as "like," "make" and "take," once your child has mastered sounding out words with short vowels. Gradually add words with two vowels, such as "look," "food," "meet" and "been." These may be confusing, as the vowel combinations don't always make the same sound in different words. Check them carefully before introducing them to your child to avoid confusion.

Explain exceptions the rules when you encounter words that don't make the expected sounds. Words like "light," "been" and "cough" do not make the expected sound and may confuse your child. Talk about exceptions and explain that some words need to memorized as sight words.

Things You Will Need

  • Index cards
  • Phonics software


Not all words can be sounded out. Avoid asking kids to sound out words that do not follow the traditional rules.

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About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

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