Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tips for Teaching Your Child to Read - in ANY Language!

photo by John-Morgan

Here are a few things I have discovered while teaching my child to read:

1.) Have Patience!

Remember that while reading words may be super easy for you, your child has only been at it for a few months. When we read, sounds and images pop into our head instantly. But children have to memorize a bunch of squiggly lines and the different sounds that are associated with each one. And on top of that, when two or more are together, they produce an altogether different sound. Yikes! How easy would it be for you to read an alphabet in a foreign language?

2.) Timing Matters

Watch to see when your child performs best. You may find that practicing reading at the beginning of the school day is better than at the end. Try to avoid reading lessons right before lunch and dinner when your kids are really hungry and before a nap or bedtime when they are tired and sleepy.

3.) Supply Brain Food

What your kids are eating really makes a difference because reading is hard work and the brain uses up so much energy. Just as you supply your body with a good diet before working out at the gym, the same holds true for your brain. Sneak in a good breakfast or a snack high in protein before you sit down to read.

4.) Use Appropriate Materials

There’s nothing wrong with using easy material to help boost your child’s confidence, but be sure to space it out in between books that gently challenge your child. Using material that is too hard for their level will only discourage and frustrate your child. To find out if the books you are using are appropriate for your child’s skill level, or to test their reading fluency, check out this simple test on the Homeschool Parent.

5.) Keep It Positive

Take time to praise and encourage your child as he or she reads to you. Don’t hesitate to help them with words that are not easily sounded out (such as sight words or those with letter combinations which produce different sounds that your child hasn’t learned yet). Chances are after helping with the same word just a few times, your child will begin to recognize it and learn to read it. NEVER belittle, chastise, or get angry at your child for struggling to read. This just makes a difficult situation worse. And try not to get impatient (see point #1). In order for your child to enjoy learning, they should not be made to feel bad or ashamed for their efforts.

6.) Review Difficult Words

When you notice your child struggling over certain words or word groups (sight words or words that produce multiple sounds) review the words in a fun way. Make up flashcards and invent a game using them. Or have your child practice writing them out on a dry erase board. But try not to use more than four and five at a time or it can be overwhelming.

7.) Shorter is Better

Keep you sessions to 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Your child will probably get tired if you go any longer. And it is better to end on a positive note, than a cranky one!

8.) Don’t Be Afraid to Stop!

If the session just isn’t working out, end it. You can always try again later, but if you try to force your child to read when he or she is having difficulty, then they won’t be learning anything anyway.

9.) Reward, Reward, Reward!

Always take the time to celebrate your child’s accomplishments.

Help your child create a reward poster that they can add stickers to for each book they finish reading. You write the titles down and let them make a path and/or decorate the page. Hang it in a spot that your child can easily reach. When he or she completes the work and fills in the poster, get creative and think of a big way to celebrate as a family. Possibilities include going to the movies, bowling, baking a favorite meal or dessert, or taking a trip down to your local bookstore so your child can choose the book of their choice.

Learning to read isn’t easy and the road to literacy is long. Keeping these tips in the back of your mind can go a long way towards making the journey more pleasant.

Con mucho cariño…


  1. At what age did you begin to teach your kids to read?
    Can't wait till I can start using these great tips!

  2. Monica, my 4 year old daughter was in preschool for the past 2 years, but we decided to keep her home this last year before she goes into kindergarten. She is not reading yet. Do you have a good first reading book to recommend? I'm confused with all the choices out there. Thanks for an informative and comprehensive list of tips!

  3. @Ana, I didn't really buckle down with it until my daughter was 5, but she could have easily started sooner. The reading portion of the curriculum I was officially using for Kindergarten, was a little slow for her, so I looked around for another one.

    It really depends on when they can recognize letters and the sounds that are associated with each one. I don't think you can start teaching them the alphabet too soon.

    @hh- Are you looking for books in English? or Spanish? My daughter is English dominant, so we started her off using the Hooked on Phonics, which REALLY worked. We started with the K-1st set, but if your child doesn't recognize all the letters yet, I would recommend starting with their Pre-K set, which I am going to start my son on this year.

    I have also heard that people have successfully used the Bob Books and liked them, too. But I haven't seen one, so I'm not sure.

    For Spanish, I hear great things about La Pata Pita books. You can find all these, English and Spanish, here (but you can find the HOP sets cheaper on ebay, I think!):

  4. I'm certainly going to need these in a couple of years, very great tips Monica!!

  5. Monica, great tips! We did much of the same and my 4 year old can read many books from front to back. We tend to give her the Level 1 books now, but we're thinking of moving on to Level 2.

  6. my son is 2yrs and he reads some of the easy books for preschool kids. what can i do to help my son improve?. He loves books and every time we go out and he sees a book he wants it.

  7. Thank you for writing this post. My sister is thinking about starting with her son and this will help her.

  8. Thanks, Everyone!

    @Una Mama Feliz: If he is only 2 and is already reading, you are doing great! I would be careful not to push too hard, but certainly supply him with books to encourage his reading and challenge him just a teensy bit. Is he reading in Spanish, or English? Scholastic has many easy, first readers out that focus on phonics and even sight words. And they have them in both languages!

    You can also try playing fun games with letter recognition and make your own alphabet cards on index cards or construction paper.

    And definitely buy him lots of books! My house is overflowing...

  9. Now that my little one is tarting to take interest as to what letters put together say, these tips will sure come in handy. Gracias.


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