I love to read. I always have. When I had kids, I couldn’t wait to snuggle up for hours and share my favorite stories with them. But I was worried. I’d often heard, “Boys just don’t like reading.” I had seen the evidence of that over and over in the boys and men I met, but I could not imagine not sharing that part of my world with my children. I now have 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6 and 18 months) that, so far (but have not always), love to read.

how-toteach-your-kids-to-readDisclaimer.  I believe that at some point reading “clicks.” There are gifted readers who start reading at 3 and gifted readers who start reading at 7. Every child takes reading at his or her own speed. My goal was always to have my children love to read and then learn to read. My motivation for teaching them to read was that the sooner they felt confident reading, they would be able to enjoy books on their own. These are some of the tools I used to teach my kids to both love reading and learn to read.

Start young. I started reading to my babies from the moment they could look at a book. My oldest hated to sit still, so our reading moments lasted only a minute or two. My 4th baby will let me read to him for hours, but I always tried with all of them to do it as often as possible.

Go at their pace. Babies won’t sit still for long sentences, but they will engage as you point to objects in pictures and say the names of them. Animal books are always a favorite of the under 18 months crowd. I rarely read the story, just point to the animals and make their noises. This also works for other things they are familiar with like: baby, eat, play, ball, night night, etc. This allowed me to read just about any picture book we owned to them and I often made up my own story or dialogue. We also loved books that went to songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider or The Wheels on the Bus. My oldest hated sitting still, so I would speed read to him and finish a book in just a few seconds by pointing to pictures and making sounds. It was strange but it worked. 

Fill in the blank. I love finding books my kids can predict and participate in. From the time they learn to talk, I will start leaving out words and wait for them to fill them in. This works best with the word at the end of a sentence. I’m as Quick as a Cricket or Good Night Moon are some of the best for this, but you can do it with any book they really love. As they get older and more familiar with the book, they can often recite most of it. It’s a fun game that keeps them engaged in reading and allows them to open a book and “read” independently very early on. I try in every way to make them feel comfortable with books.

A few favorites:

Use puzzles.
We have used this alphabet floor puzzle like crazy. We have tried lots of varieties but this one is my favorite because the pieces are big and easy to put together, the letters are formed correctly and are easy to read and the pictures are in the background. We have used this to pieces with all of my kids. The ways we used the puzzle:
*We would do it together.
*We’d sing the ABCs as we pointed to the letter. We’d sing it faster and faster and faster.
*We’d jump from letter to letter while singing.
*We’d point out the letters we knew.
*When they were familiar with some letters, I’d put a piece of sugar cereal (or marshmallow or chocolate chip, whatever is motivational) on each letter, and if they knew the letter, they could eat the cereal. If not, I’d eat it. I’d start with just a few that I knew they knew then add one or two every time we did the puzzle. I tried to teach the easiest, most familiar ones first, like the letters in their name.
*Pretty soon, they knew all the letters, so we’d do the same thing with sounds. It was a fun game that kept their attention. It seemed like they looked forward to our puzzle time.
*With everything regarding reading, we stopped when it wasn’t fun or when interest was gone. One thing I knew was that I never wanted reading to be a punishment or chore but always wanted it to be an exciting way to interact with me and the world. Each child was very different. They will all learn how to read at some point, try not to worry. Make it about enjoying it and let them lead.
Use a DVD (gulp).
I’m not usually a fan of TV learning, in fact it seems like an oxymoron to me, but this Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD was awesome for teaching sounds. Once my kids knew the letters, I let them watch this DVD for their TV time and the sounds usually came lickety split. It is really fantastic.
Try my first steps to reading books.
I think these books are painfully boring, but all my kids have really liked them and they teach lower case letters really well. Capital letters seemed much easier to recognize than lowercase letters, so this helped. You can get the whole set at the library.
Read by spelling. 

One thing that has always worked well for us is spelling first. After my boys know the sounds of each letter we use them to spell. In the car or when trying to pass time, I’ll give my kids words to spell. In the beginning, I’ll help them sound them out, letter by letter (meaning I’ll say the sound and they the letter), but it’s not long before they can do it on their own. I also like using spelling to teach new concepts like the silent “e” or the “y” that sounds like an “i.” I will give them bunches of words that have that same strange rule and they will spell them all for me as they understand the pattern. We actually spell a lot before we really read. 

Spell in the bath. 

We used foam bath letters a bunch too. I’d suggest buying at least 2 sets, so you have 2 of each letter. We spent a lot of bathtub time spelling words on the wall. I love places where my kids enjoy (or have to) chat with me. This felt like a game to them too, so they were happy to play “bath spelling” which often leads to “bath reading.” When they were very comfortable with spelling, I would place small words on the bathtub wall and they would read.

Write lists.
I’m always amazed at how quickly kids start stringing sounds together once they have them down. We like to write our own lists to read and start with a simple sound like, “at.” Once they can do that, we add a letter to the beginning of the sound (cat, bat, sat, mat) then do another ending and do the same thing and presto! they can read. Watching their face when they do it on their own for the first time is magic. They are so proud. This is also lots of fun to do on a white board.
Start sight words.
There are just some words you can’t sound out, so we have to “remember” those. These are tough and it’s helpful when a preschool teacher or kindergarten teacher has a list and reinforces it. If not, they are easy to find online.

Find beginning books.
There are so many series out there for beginning readers. We’ve almost always gotten them from preschool or kindergarten teachers and at times, the library.  If my kids ever got frustrated with reading we switched things up…they would read a page, then I would read a page. I never wanted reading to be a hassle for them. I also didn’t stop reading to them for pleasure just because they could read. I still read to my kids. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
To see what we do to keep them interested in reading after they go to school, check back!