It’s never too early to start reading to your child. While most children are able to read by the ages of 6-7, introducing them to books early can encourage a lifelong love of learning. And according to a study cited by national charity The Reading Agency, children who read for pleasure are more empathetic and better able to understand themselves and others’ identities.

Reading with young children (and babies) is a fun bonding activity that gets them used to associating sounds with words and pictures.

We’ve outlined some logical steps you can take to teach your child to read. These steps don’t necessarily need to be followed in this order. They’re simply designed to show how the basic elements of reading could fit together.

Read Aloud to Your Child

According to statistics cited in The Guardian, only half of pre-school children are read to daily. Reading aloud to your child is the first step towards developing their love of books. Hearing a story read out loud can help children follow the words on the page and improve their future reading ability.

The more you read to your child out loud, the more they’ll come to recognise written words by their sounds. Rhyming books, song books, and even picture books that contain some text are all great choices to read out loud. Some of our favourite books for early readers include:

And remember, with younger children, you don’t necessarily need to stick to the text when you read. Sometimes, creating your own story can engage a child more.

Harriet Clay, Director of A-Lined Tutors, who specialise in teaching English reading, says: ‘unlike learning how to speak, learning to read is not a natural skill acquired at a set mile stone age - it has to be taught. Children learn how to speak a language after around 6-18 months of listening to those around them, decoding the sounds they hear into individual words.

This acquisition of phonemic awareness is the first step towards learning to read. So, reading aloud to your children from a young age helps them build up a phonic sound bank which is vital.

Once phonics has been mastered and children are confident in reading individual words, they can then be moved onto sentences, paragraphs and eventually full stories. The one piece of advice I give to all parents is read to your children, and if you can't, get audiobooks with the text. Children can then follow along listening and building their vocabulary skills, which will come in handy at the final stage of learning to read comprehension.’

Ask Your Child Questions As You Read

Two boys sitting on grass

Make reading as interactive as possible by asking your child questions after you’ve read each page. With younger children, you don’t necessarily have to ask questions about the words or the plot, you can simply ask ‘what, why, where, and who’ questions.

With older children, you may want to focus on a particular word on the page and ask them to explain what it means. Or you could ask them to make up their own sentence with the word if they can.

Asking questions encourages children to think beyond the words on the page and helps them link ideas and concepts together. 

Set an Example by Reading Yourself

If your child sees you reading for pleasure, they’re more likely to want to read for pleasure themselves. Simply watching you read can be enough to encourage them to pick up a book on their own and flick through the pages.

If your child is curious about what you’re reading, try to engage them in a conversation about the topic and ask if they recognise any of the words on the page. If they pick up a book themselves, ask them what they’re reading and show encouragement of their effort.

Make Reading an Everyday Activity

make reading an every day activity

Reading doesn’t have to be restricted to books. Words are everywhere and once you start pointing them out to your child, they’ll start noticing them too. Reading the words on cereal boxes in the morning, the words on bus tickets, road signs etc. are all great ways to engage your child with language.

You can even turn it into a game by seeing how many words they can identify or spell aloud.

Encourage Your Child to ‘Sound it Out’ with Phonics

There are 44 sounds in the English language that form the words that we use every day. Phonics is a method of learning words through sound. According to researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, learning through phonics makes reading easier and more accurate.

Teaching phonics to your child involves having them think about the sound that a word starts with. They then say the sound out loud and think about how it relates to the letters. By breaking down written words by their sound, children often find it easier to blend sounds together into the spoken word.

Early Years teacher Sarah Arthurwears, who writes about child development and the Early Years Foundation Stage, says ‘when teaching phonics (the phonemes and graphemes for reading), we know the young brain thrives on repetition and movement. Using actions, tangible objects and 'fun' activities, such as finding and jumping on a particular letter/sound on the floor can really help with engagement.

Using Consonant, Vowel, Consonant (CVC) words, children can jump on, and sound out each letter before orally blending them to read the word. A child taking on the role of a teacher and using a wand to point to phonic sounds on a wall is also a great way to aid learning.’

For a brief overview of how phonics can help teach a child to read, take a look at this short video from Little Learners:

Help Your Child Identify Word Families

Word families are words that are grouped together in some way, typically by their pattern, or meaning. They normally have a common prefix or suffix, for example, the words ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy, could be described as being part of the same word family.

Children are typically taught about word families around KS2 level but you can help your child grasp the idea of word families at home by working on spelling lists and discussing the variations in meaning between related words.

Help Your Child Identify Sight Words

One of the more advanced elements of teaching a child to read is helping them identify sight words. These are words that don’t follow the normal rules of spelling and simply have to be memorised. Some examples of sight words include: come, from, could, little, made, people, their.

Children generally don’t enjoy learning words by heart in a linear way, so resources like flash cards, games, and using hand signs are a good way of making the process more interactive.

Samantha Duong, Founder of Little Mandarin Classes, who teach toddlers and pre-schoolers, says, ‘as a company that teaches KS1 and KS2 children how to read in Mandarin Chinese, we have a particular interest in the dynamics of how children learn to read. The approach that we find most successful is: learning the pronunciation and meaning of the spoken words, associating the words with the characters or letters, learning how to write the characters and finally, memorising them.

The main method used in our classes is combining British Sign Language and role-play. Children learn to associate each word with a hand-sign, which helps memory retention. Then they put the knowledge into practice through role-play activities and story-telling. We also find that supporting learning at home through songs, vocabulary, and activity sheets is very effective.’

At Edu Prints Plus, we make educational prints for teachers, parents, and schools that inspire children to read for pleasure. All of our motivational posters are printed on thick, luxurious 350 gsm art card with a lovely velvet finish. They also have surface protection to combat sun, sticky fingers, and juice.

If you’re currently teaching your child to read and want to give them that extra bit of encouragement and motivation, then you’ll find our posters about reading particularly inspiring. They’re also a great way to brighten up any classroom or bedroom. Take a look at our reading prints below:

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