Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How DO you teach kids to read?

I had a friend post a question on Facebook this morning, and I thought it would be a great question to address.

She has three young kids, and was wondering how to teach them to read. Several people posted comments. I was surprised by the fact that a few mentioned computer or paid "programs." I don't know why I was surprised, but...

Let me explain.

My philosophy on reading with young children is this: Make it a wonderful experience. When I think about teaching my boys, I remember sitting with them, laughing, hugging, and talking about books as I would read to them. I never pushed "knowing the words" -- they naturally gradually began asking me. First it would be mimicry, then memorization, then -- as if by magic -- they began reading.

Now I know it isn't magic. There needs to be direct instruction on what letter names are, what their sounds are, and how those sounds go together to make a meaningful word.

Here's my take on reading with toddlers. They really dictate what happens. If you notice, kids will ask for the same book over and over. That makes sense. They want to begin making sense for themselves of these scribble lines -- those "words" adults read and a story comes out.

Take time to explore the pictures and tell the story orally. As you do, if your story has words that are written there on the page, point it out. For example, if I was reading a book about a dog, or Curious George and I am orally talking about the word, I will look for that word in the text and say, "See, that's the word Curious George."

Your work as a parent of a toddler is to make reading a part of their life. I know we get anxious when others state that their 4 year old is reading Magic Tree House books, but THERE IS NO RUSH.

Kids that young don't need to be competing when it comes to reading. They need to be enjoying. Trust me, they will lead you...there is a natural curiosity about books. If you are worried they have a learning block, that is another story...and about 4 years old you will start to see it.

Relax. JUST READ. There is no specific path to take...but the best thing you can do...is provide the attitude that reading is fun, energizing, and exciting.


  1. When my summer school ended last Tuesday, my students asked"what's for homework?" I replied, "go to the library, and find books to read!" It probably won't happen. I think next time, I'd better give each of them, several books to read. I'm trying to inspire.. them to find their own way!!! Lynne Hanamoto

  2. Keep going Lynne...don't give up...your passion and inspiration will make a difference. What could have been cool would be to start a book together before summer school ended, but not finish it...leave it at a really good, suspenseful part...then ask them to write you a letter telling you how they liked the ending. Do you think they may jump at that?