Teach Reading with Activities

The U.S. Department of Education says teaching reading is “As Simple as ABC.”

Here is a list of their “teaching reading” ideas that will help you help your child.

Share the Alphabet—for Children Ages 2 to 6

Sharing the alphabet with your child helps her begin to recognize the shapes of letters and to link them with the sounds of spoken language. She will soon learn the difference between individual letters—what they look like and what they sound like.

Materials You Will Need:

Alphabet books, ABC magnets, paper, pencils, crayons, markers, glue, and safety scissors

What to Do

Teaching reading with these 7 activities works well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let her do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as she enjoys them.

  • Activity 1With your toddler sitting with you, print the letters of her name on paper and say each letter as you write it. Make a name sign for her room or other special place. Have her decorate the sign by pasting stickers or drawing on it.

  • Activity 2You are teaching reading to your child when you sing "The Alphabet Song" and play games with her using the alphabet. Some alphabet books have songs and games that you can learn together.

  • Activity 3Look for educational videos, DVDs, CDs, and TV shows such as "Between the Lions" that feature letter-learning activities for young children. Watch such programs with your child and join in with her on the rhymes and songs.

  • Activity 4Place alphabet magnets on your refrigerator or on another smooth, safe metal surface. Ask your child to name the letters she plays with and to say the words she may be trying to spell.

  • Activity 5Wherever you are with your child, point out individual letters in signs, billboards, posters, food containers, books, and magazines. When she is 3 to 4 years old, ask her to begin finding and naming some letters.


When you show your child letters and words over and over again, she will identify and use them more easily when learning to read and write. She will be eager to learn when the letters and words are connected to things that are part of her life. You are TEACHING READING!


  • Activity 6—Writing is a key to teaching reading.When your child is between ages 3 and 4, encourage her to spell and write her name. For many children, their names are the first words they write. At first, your child may use just one or two letters for her name (for example, Emily, nicknamed Em, uses the letter M).

  • Activity 7—An excellent method for teaching reading is to make an alphabet book with your kindergartner. Have her draw pictures (you can help). You can also cut pictures from magazines or use photos. Paste each picture in the book. Help your child to write next to the picture the letter that stands for the object or person in the picture (for example, B for bird, M for milk, and so on).

What Happens Next in the Teaching-Reading Process?


Teach Reading to Children Ages 2 to 6

Books with words or actions that appear over and over help your child to predict or tell what happens next. These are called "predictable" books. Your child will love to figure out the story in a predictable book!

What You Need for This Activity

Predictable books with repeated words, phrases, questions, or rhymes.

As we stated above, teaching reading with the following activities works well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let her do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as she enjoys them.

  • Activity 1Read predictable books to your child. Teach him to hear and say repeating words, such as names for colors, numbers, letters, and animals.

  • Activity 2Pick a story that has repeated phrases, such as this example from The Three Little Pigs:

    Wolf Voice:Little pig, little pig, let me come in.
    Little Pig: Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!
    Wolf Voice: Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!

  • Activity 3Your child will learn the repeated phrase and have fun joining in with you each time it shows up in the story. Pretty soon, he will join in before you tell him. Read books that give hints about what might happen next. Such books have your child lifting flaps, looking through cut-out holes in the pages, "reading" small pictures that stand for words (called "rebuses"), and searching for many other clues. Get excited along with your child as he hurries to find out what happens next.

 

Predictable books help children to understand how stories progress. A child easily learns familiar phrases and repeats them, pretending to read. Pretend reading is a valuable teaching-reading method. It gives a child a sense of power and the courage to keep trying.

 

When teaching reading with predictable books, ask your child what he thinks will happen. See if he points out picture clues, if he mentions specific words or phrases, or if he connects the story to something that happens in real life. These are important skills for a beginning reader to learn.


Teach Reading with Picture Books

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

For children ages 3 to 6

Books that have no words, just beautiful pictures, invite you and your child to use your imaginations to make up your own stories to go with the pictures.

Materials You Will Need:

Wordless picture books, Old magazines, Safety scissors, Construction paper

What to Do

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them. Using wordless picture books can help improve children's language skills and spark their imaginations.

  • Look through the whole picture book with your child. Ask him what he thinks the story is about. Tell the story together by talking about each page as each of you sees it.

  • Ask your child to identify objects, animals, or people on each page. Talk with him about the pictures, and ask him if he thinks that they are like real life.

  • Have your child tell another child or family member a story using a wordless picture book. Doing this will make him feel like a "reader" and will encourage him to continue learning to read.

  • Have your child create his own picture book with his drawings or pictures that you help him cut from magazines.


Teach Reading with Rhymes

Rhyme with Me: It's Fun, You'll See!

For children ages 3 to 6

Rhyming activities help your child to pay attention to the sounds in words. Children around the world have fun with rhyming games and songs. Here are a few rhyming books to look for: Shake It to the One That You Love the Best: Play Songs and Lullabies from Black Musical Traditions by Cheryl Warren Mattox; Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky; Diez Deditos: 10 Little Fingers and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America by Jose-Luis Orozco; and My Very First Mother Goose by Iona Opie.

Materials You Will Need:

Books with rhyming words, word games, or songs

What to Do

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let her do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as she enjoys them.

  • Read rhymes to your child. As you read, stop before a rhyming word and encourage your child to fill in the blank. When she does, praise her.

  • Listen for rhymes in songs that you know or hear on the radio, TV, or at family or other gatherings. Sing the songs with your child.

  • Around the home, point to objects and say their names, for example, clock. Then ask your child to say as many words as she can that rhyme with the name. Other easily rhymed words are ball, bed, rug, sink, and toy. Let your child use some silly, or nonsense, words as well: toy—joy, boy, woy, loy, doy, hoy, noy.

  • Say three words such as go, dog, and frog, and ask your child which words sound the same rhyme.

  • If your child has an easy-to-rhyme name, ask her to say words that rhyme with it: Jillbill, mill, fill, hill.

  • If a computer is available, encourage your child to use it to play rhyming games. (For computer game suggestions, see "Learning with Computers.")


Match My Sounds

For children ages 3 to 6

Listening for and saying sounds in words will help your child to learn that spoken words are made up of sounds, which gets him ready to match spoken sounds to written letters—an important first step toward becoming a reader.

Materials You Will Need:

Books with nursery rhymes, tongue twisters, word games, or silly songs

What to Do

  • The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them.

  • Say your child's name, then have him say words that begin with the same sound; for example: Davidday, doll, dish; Jessjuice, jam, jar.

  • As you read a story or poem, ask your child to listen for and say the words that begin with the same sound. Then have him think of and say another word that begins with the sound.

  • Read or say a familiar nursery rhyme such as "Humpty, Dumpty." Then have your child make it "Bumpty, Lumpty" or "Thumpty, Gumpty."

  • Help your child to make up and say silly lines with lots of words that start with the same sound, such as, "Sister saw six silly snakes."

  • Say two names for an animal, and tell your child to choose the name that begins with the same sound as the animal's name. Ask, for example, should a horse's name be Hank or Tank? Should a pig be Mattie or Patty? Should a zebra be Zap or Cap?


Take a Bow!

For children ages 3 to 6

When your child acts out a poem or story, she shows her own understanding of what it is about. She also grows as a reader by connecting emotions with written words. Play acting helps a child learn that there are more and less important parts to a story. She also learns how one thing in a story follows another.

Materials You Will Need:

Poems or stories written from a child's point of view
Things to use in a child's play (dress-up clothes, puppets)

What to Do

  • Read a poem slowly to your child. Read it with feeling, making the words seem important.

  • If your child has a poem she especially likes, ask her to act it out. Ask her to make a face to show the way the character in the poem is feeling. Making different faces adds emotion to the performer's voice. After her performance, praise her for doing a good job.

  • Tell your child that the family would love to see her perform her poem. Set a time when everyone can be together. When your child finishes her performance, encourage her to take a bow as everyone claps and cheers loudly.

  • Encourage your child to make up her own play from a story that she has read or heard. Tell her that it can be make-believe or from real life. Help her to find or make things to go with the story—a pretend crown, stuffed animals, a broomstick, or whatever the story needs. Some of her friends or family also can help. You can write down the words or, if she is old enough, help her to write them. Then help her to stage the play for everyone to see!


Family Stories

For children ages 3 to 6

Telling family stories lets your child know about the people who are important to him. They also give him an idea of how one thing leads to another in a story. Think out loud about when you were little. Make a story out of something that happened, such as a family trip, a birthday party, or when you lost your first tooth.

What to Do

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them.

  • Tell your child stories about your parents and grandparents or about others who are special to you and your family. You might put these stories in a book and add old photographs.

  • The storyteller's voice helps your child to hear the sounds of words and how they are put together to make meaning.

  • Have your child tell you stories about what he did on special days, such as holidays, birthdays, and family vacations.

  • If you go on a trip, write a trip journal with your child to make a new family story. Take photographs of special events. Writing down special events and pasting photographs of the events in the journal will tie the family story to a written history. You can also include everyday trips, such as going to the grocery store or the park.


Write On!

For children ages 3 to 6

Reading and writing support each other. The more your child does of each, the better she will be at both.

Materials You Will Need:

Pencils, crayons, or markers, Yarn or ribbon, Writing paper or notebook,
Cardboard or heavy paper, Construction paper, Safety scissors

What to Do

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let her do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as she enjoys them.

  • Write with your child. She will learn a lot about writing by watching you write. Talk with her about your writing so that she begins to understand that writing means something and has many uses.

  • Have your preschooler use her way of writing—perhaps just a scribble—to sign birthday cards or make lists.

  • Hang a family message board in the kitchen. Offer to write notes there for your child. Be sure that she finds notes left there for her.

  • When a child is just beginning, she tries different ways to write and spell. Our job as parents is to encourage our children's writing so they will enjoy putting their thoughts and ideas on paper. Provide them with spelling help when they ask for it.

  • Ask your preschooler to tell you simple stories as you write them down. Question her if you don't understand something.

  • Ask your preschooler to write her name and practice writing it with her. Remember, at first she may use only the first letter or two of her name.

  • Help your child write notes or e-mails to relatives and friends to thank them for gifts or to share her thoughts. Encourage the relatives and friends to answer your child.

  • When she is in kindergarten, your child will begin to write words the way that she hears them. For example, she might write haf for have, frn for friend, and Frd for Fred. Ask her to read her writing to you. Don't be concerned with correct spelling. She will learn that later.

  • As your child gets older, she can begin to write or tell you longer stories. Ask questions that will help her organize the stories. Answer questions about alphabet letters and spelling.

  • Turn your child's writing into books. Paste her drawings and writings on pieces of construction paper. For each book, make a cover out of heavier paper or cardboard, then add special art, a title, and her name as author. Punch holes in the pages and cover and bind the book together with yarn or ribbon.


All of the activities discussed so far offer a rich experience for children as they build their language skills. But you can do even more to support your child's learning.

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