How to teach someone to read

Teaching reading

Teaching someone to read can be a rewarding experience. If you are able to read yourself, then you have the tools you need to teach someone to read. The methods are different for children and adults, so both methods are provided in this article. With children, you are starting from an empty slate. With adults, you can build upon the adult's familiarity with the spoken language and apply it to writing.

Read to your child daily. Doing so teaches your child that reading is fun and also introduces your child to the way that written words sound when spoken aloud.

Make sure your child is ready to begin learning how to read. If your child has no interest whatsoever in learning his letters, then wait a month or so and try again.

Teach your child the sounds of each letter. The sound of a letter is much more important than a letter's name because the child will need to combine the letter sounds to make words.

Focus on one letter at a time. Rather than try to teach a child 26 new letters at one time, focus on one letter a day or a week. This enables the child to master each letter sound and feel proud of herself for doing so.

Incorporate sight, sound and touch as you teach each letter. Some children learn their letters faster by seeing or hearing them, while other children learn better by using their bodies.

Begin reading with "consonant-vowel-consonant" words. Once your child knows his letter sounds, he is ready to begin reading. Beginners do best with trying to read words that have a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, such as CAT or DOG.

Practice reading daily. Once your child starts sounding out words in the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, she is officially reading. It takes a long time to go from sounding out each letter in a word to learning sight words and on to fluent reading, but it all comes with practice.

Express your confidence in the person's ability to learn how to read. Illiterate adults are likely to have confidence issues and worry that they are too old to learn how to read. Reassure them that their knowledge of the English language provides them with a leg up in learning how to read.

Introduce a common phonic sound. Start with a sound that shows up in most reading material, such as "an" or "at." Show the person how to write the phonic sound. Talk about words that have that sound. Flip through a magazine or newspaper and look for those letters in words.

Share two or three sight words during each lesson. Begin with the most common sight words, such as "the" and "and." Encourage the student to focus on how the word looks and think about the shapes of the letters each time he hears the word spoken.

Assign homework between lessons. Encourage the student to carry a pad of paper and a pen around and write down any word he sees that has the phonic sound she has just learned. Incorporate the student's findings into the next lesson.

Build upon what the student has already learned. Once the student learns the phonic "an," introduce similar phonics, such as "at" or "ap." Then, move on to other vowels, using as many of the same consonants as possible, such as "in" or "en."

Introduce the silent e. After the student has mastered the phonic sounds using the short vowel sounds, introduce the long vowel sound with the silent e.

Encourage the student to practice reading. Most bookstores and your local library have sight-word heavy and phonics-based books available.

Things You Will Need

  • Age-appropriate books for beginning readers
  • Magazines and newspapers (for adult readers)


If a child is struggling with learning to read, do not assume you are doing something wrong. Your child might not be ready to read yet. When a child is developmentally ready to begin reading, the process becomes significantly easier. An illiterate adult's biggest challenge is insecurity about the ability to read. Be supportive and encouraging to help build his self-confidence.


If the student seems to have trouble with processing the letters, decoding words or reversing letters an evaluation for a learning disability like dyslexia may be in order.