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Carly's avatar

What is the best way to teach children how to read?

Asked by Carly (4550points) January 1st, 2011

I remember my mother tried using Hooked on Phonics. It was fun, but i don’t know if it actually helped me learn how to read.

Are there any approaches you’ve taken to help children learn how to read better, faster, and with more reading comprehension?

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14 Answers

MissAusten's avatar

It depends on what age the child is, to some extent. If the child is preschool age, the best thing you can do is read, read, read. Talk about the stories, point out things in the pictures, take turns making up stories for each other. Limit TV, play imaginative games, go outside a lot, don’t use baby talk, and then read together some more. For the vast majority of children, simply being read to on a daily basis will more than ready them for learning to read when they start school. It also helps to sing the ABC’s and as time for kindergarten approaches, start working on letter recognition and teach the child to write his or her name. Most likely, if you’ve been reading together regularly up to this point the child will actively want to learn letters, writing, and even start spelling simple words. Even if thee isn’t a lot of interest from the child, he or she will learn just fine at school. One of my kids had zero interest in anything related to reading and grudgingly did the schoolwork in kindergarten. In first grade he had help from a reading specialist for part of the year, but then he suddenly “got it” and now, in second grade, is one of the best readers in the class.

Basically, if your child is in a language rich environment, reading will probably come easily. There is no need at all for a child to learn to read before starting school. Just have fun together. Programs to teach younger children to read might work, but they are usually expensive and the benefits of such early reading ability aren’t proven. Save yourself the money and just go to the library.

If you have an older child who is in school and struggling, talk to the teacher and the school’s reading specialist. Ask what you can do at home to support your child’s efforts. If your child is in kindergarten, first, or second grade, relax. Things like reading and math abilities in children vary widely when they are younger but tend to even out by third grade. You should still be reading with your child every day. Most schools have special staff to assist children who aren’t meeting grade standards, but if the school isn’t able to meet your child’s needs you can ask the pediatrician to refer you to an outside service (such as Sylvan) that might be able to offer additional help and strategies.

Finally, set a good example by reading yourself. Whether it’s a book, newspaper, or magazine, if your child sees that reading is important to you, he or she will also think it is important. Remember that your child will develop at his or her own pace regardless of what you want. Crawling, walking, talking, reading…your child doesn’t see life as a competition. Try to have that same perspective.

flutherother's avatar

The best way is to introduce them to books. Read picture books with them when they are very young and enroll them at their local library. Take an interest in what they read and discuss stories with them. Books will develop their imaginations and their reading skills.

BarnacleBill's avatar

There is a point in child development where children recognize that there are symbolic things called words, and that they have meaning. I remember mine noticing the credits that appeared at the end of television shows, and asking what they were.

In Montessori, they learned to read and write at the same time by making “books” of site words. There were sandpaper letter cards to trace the shape of the letter and practice the sounds.

Word recognition and comprehension are two different things.

Reading to a child is so important, as is having a child see you read, and discuss what you read with others. Having a child read to you, or to exchange notes or mail is a great way to integrate reading and writing. Things that have purpose is easier to learn.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Well, it certainly has NOTHING to do with “Dick and Jane!”

Tennis5tar's avatar

I really loved read along books. When I was a kiddie we had cassette and a book sets so I could hear the words being spoken and connect them to the writing on the page. Involving another sense will create brain activity in more places, allowing the building of greater connections.

YARNLADY's avatar

Use every method available. They all have some value, and the more exposure the child has to reading, the easier it will be to learn.

The only method my parents used was to read to us every night. I learned around the age of 3, but my brother didn’t learn to read until he was around 8 or 9, and reading is still very laborious for him. It takes his brain a long time to process each word.

Jeruba's avatar

The best way? I don’t know. But I taught my sister to read when she was about 4 and I was 8 or 9 by spending lots of time reading picture books with her, pointing to the words as I read. Before long she had them memorized and could point to the words too.

Of course, she already knew the alphabet and could recognize all the individual letters, both uppercase and lowercase.

From there it was a short hop to finding the same words in other books. I would pause while reading and point to a word I knew she’d seen in another book, sometimes coaching her a little bit, and pretty soon she was responding to the prompts by identifying familiar words. She figured out the idea of recognizing whole words and also of treating things that looked alike in similar ways. Sure, there are a lot of words that don’t fit the patterns, but there are also many words that do, and you can do a lot with them.

I did the same thing with my children in their turn. Not only did I read to them every day but I did the word-by-word pointing with picture books. We played loads of word games, too. It didn’t take them long to catch on. So it might not be the best way, but it certainly worked. My older boy read the entire Oz series and the entire Narnia series to himself at the age of six.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I have had much the same experience, although mine was less pleasant. My grandmother had taught me to read before I started first grade, so I was bored to tears by the reading material available at school. As a result, I was somewhat of a behavior problem and was almost expelled several times until I learned to control myself better.

Jeruba's avatar

That’s too bad, @CaptainHarley. That was the educator’s fault. Your teacher could have handled that situation much better.

My mother deliberately did not teach me to read before starting school because she was worried about that same thing, but I learned on my own (figured out the code from having memorized all those picture books). In school the first-grade teacher did three things: put me in the accelerated reading group, gave me the assignment of reading stories aloud to the class, and said, “There’s a bookcase at the back of the room. Help yourself.” This was in an ordinary public school in the unenlightened fifties.

Eggie's avatar

Teach them how to read phonics. Teach them how to sound the letters out and break words into syllables. Also read to your child whenever he/she goes to bed with him watching the words as you read to him.

perspicacious's avatar

Yes I was successful in teaching my kids to read before kindergarten, and my daughter has been successful as well. We use phonics as language is learned. We talk about letters of the words as children begin saying the words. Around three years start using the workbooks you can buy at teacher supply stores. At three ours were ready for pre-K. When the kids have mastered the sounds of the letters and you spend some time talking about how letters make words you are ready for the McGuffy Readers. They have been around forever and are great. Good luck.

I will add that not all kids want to read early. That’s great. But if you have kids like I did that despised not knowing what signs and childrens books were saying with all of those letters. it might be worth the effort.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You were very lucky. : )

woodcutter's avatar

it’s all in the phonics. Without that it becomes mainly memorization, which is an unreliable way to teach. I was sick with tonsillitis and missed the first few weeks of 1st grade. All the other students were already reading when I set foot in the classroom my first day. I had to play some serious catch up but once she drummed the phonics into me the reading made so much more sense. I think it was the easiest subject for me to grasp in school. Good ole Mrs. Bell.

Rarebear's avatar

You read to them every day and you model good reading habits.

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