10 Fun Ways to Get Kids Ready to Read

It’s back to school time, and the time of the year when parents are most prone to worrying about what their kids can and cannot do.  If reading is a skill on your child’s horizon (or just a fairly new skill), here’s some fun ways to help make it easier.

  • Cut some paper into strips and write a letter on each one.  Put a piece of tape or a sticker on top of each and ask your child to stick them to things that start with that letter.  You may want to save tricky letters like Q or X for later!
  • Dictate lists and letters.  Put your child in charge of writing up the grocery list or making up a wish list.  Help her write a letter to Grandma or a thank you note.  You can even help her write down her songs, dreams, stories or poems.  Don’t worry about over-correcting backwards letters or crazy lines.  Right now, the goal is to make it something she loves to do.  Provide fun, colorful pens and paper to make it even more enticing.
  • Play letter toss.  Draw a large chalk grid (of anywhere from 9 to 20 squares) on the driveway or basement floor.  Write a common letter in each square.  Find a bean bag or make one by filling a child’s sock with dried rice or beans and tying it.  Now take turns tossing the bean bag onto the grid and saying the letter name, the sound it makes and a word that starts with it.  Make it trickier by saying a word that ends with the letter if you want to make it harder.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt like this and fill your list with lots of letters and easy words.
  • Read Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss.  Lots.  This was the single best book for all of my kids to learn to read.  Dr. Seuss did such a great job of showing how letters work with this fun book.  The words are large and change just a little bit, easily showing children how letters make up words in a totally funny way.
  • Play rhyming games.  Rhymes help children form mental connections that help them read.  Take turns making up sets of rhymes while you’re in the car, make up silly poems together and so on.
  • Make alphabet books and use them for games together.
  • Play this game, courtesy of Magical Mama Tiffany: Here’s something fun we did here. We called it "treasure hunt."  I hid a piece of candy under a hat.  I used  stickers with short words written on them as clues.  I would put the wrong sticker on the item, eg, a CUP might have the word MAP on it.  She had to read the word, find the correct place to stick the sticker.  On that item would be another sticker etc. etc.  She followed the "clues" until finding the HAT with the candy under it!!  It was great fun and she had no idea she was reading!!!  She keeps begging to do it again!!!!!
  • Read, read, read together.  Take time sometimes to trace words as you read them but don’t get caught up in teaching and take the fun out of reading.  Books should be a fabulous treat, a source of fun and together time and neat stuff.  Keep it fun and every book you read together will help make it easier for him to learn to do it on his own.
  • Be patient.  Children develop their skills on their own timetables.  Little ones learn to walk, talk, potty train, ride a bike, read and all of the other milestones at their own unique times and it has no bearing on how well they eventually do these things.  Trying to teach a child anything before he’s ready just frustrates everybody and takes the joy out of something inherently joyful.  Believe in your child and make it easier for him.  In the meantime, model the joy of reading and just have fun!



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5 responses to “10 Fun Ways to Get Kids Ready to Read

  1. Anonymous

    Great Ideas
    Thanks for the ideas! My 4-year-old is just becoming very excited about putting letters together. She likes to try to make real words but we also make a lot of nonsense words together for fun, like “txb” or something, and she gets a kcik out of that.
    What you say about respecting the child’s timetable is so important…I noticed with both of my first two, that they had times of intense interest, but then they might go for a long period of not wanting to do any reading at all…sometimes they only wanted to write, not read, and sometimes they wanted neither, maybe for even a few months. Then suddenly they would start in again, and they’d suddenly be leaps and bounds ahead of where they were. I think they need that blank time to process the info, and pressuring them during that time could set up a kind of fear and resistance.
    I’ve also noticed that it is definitely the case, as Montessori noticed, that reading and writing are separate processes. A child may very well be able to compose words but not be interested in or able to read them after composing them, and that is natural. The two processes will eventually converge.

    • Re: Great Ideas
      Rebecca, I totally agree about reading and writing being separate skills. I’ve also noticed that spelling comes way later but it will eventually click for kids too. Writing words out can help them learn to read by sort of “reverse reading” for some kids, though. Jack and Anna both understood reading better once they had started writing out words and got the hang of how they were made.
      I agree too about needing those blank periods. I always compared it to a tide, because sometimes it seems as if you’re losing ground as quickly as gaining it. Some days Anna would seem to finally “get” reading and the next day she would seem to have forgotten it all. That seems to be the case with many kids. I tell parents it is like a tide and if you focus on every little wave you’ll go crazy thinking it’s not getting anywhere. Stand back and wait, and you’ll see that despite the ups and downs the tide has come way up the beach. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Re: Great Ideas
        Spelling! I have to tell you something about that…my first dd learned to read quite early; I showed her some basic phonetics and she took it from there. Anyway, her name is Bernadette, and at four she was spelling everything phonetically, even her name, which came out to “Brnudet”. I wanted to see what would happen, so I never corrected her or gave her any impression that there was a right way to spell words. She would write whole pages of phonetically spelled stories, letters, etc. At around age 6 she began to ask me about how this word or that word was spelled (I guess she noticed from her reading that there was a standard spelling), and now at age 9 she spells quite well though we’ve never “studied” spelling. It was the same with handwriting; up until age 8 her writing was a mix of caps and lowercase, kind of all over though legible, and I never suggested that she improve it. Anyway, around age 7.5 or 8 she decided she wanted to make her writing beautiful, so she studied some cursive. She doesn’t write in cursive, but her print is now quite beautiful. I just love watching this stuff unfold! When I hear of young kids around 7 or 8 being “diagnosed” with “dysgraphia” it really makes me wonder whether folks just need to back off a bit…

  2. I found your article on short division on Pinterest and I’m so excited to teach it to my son. You mentioned that you like to tackle teaching these things when you can do it in a weekend… like reading. I have a six-year-old who really struggles with reading and I would love to know what method you use to teach reading “in a weekend.” 🙂

    • Hi Belinda. Good question! I’ve found that with most things that kids learn, if you wait until they’re ready for it to click, it seems to happen “in a weekend.” For example, if you start toilet training at age one, it’s likely to be a really long process with lots of false starts and accidents but if you wait until your child is older (even if it seems like every other child his age is already out of diapers!) and is showing all the signs of being ready, it can be an easy process that you can do in a weekend. I read a quote from a mom of septuplets who said a nurse told her to wait on potty training until they were so ready “we could do it in a weekend” and it always stuck with me. 🙂

      Some kids are ready to read at four and some aren’t really ready for it to easily “click” until eight (and kids can be ready earlier or later, of course). I wrote an article about how to make reading come naturally here: http://www.examiner.com/homeschooling-in-mankato/making-reading-come-naturally and I have some fun reading games that might be helpful here: http://www.examiner.com/homeschooling-in-mankato/five-fun-ways-to-teach-reading.

      Unfortunately, kids are expected to learn a lot of things on a timetable that doesn’t necessarily match their natural one. Some kids talk later than others (and then talk up a storm from then on!), walk later, read later, etc. Games, reading together, talking about words and time will all help but if it’s at all possible the best way to help is to keep it fun without pressure and have faith. 🙂

      Some kids also have hidden issues like dyslexia that can be at work, but it’s completely normal for a 6 year-old not to have reading click yet so I wouldn’t worry about that sort of issue unless you have other warning signs. I don’t know if you homeschool or if your son is in school outside the home. It’s much easier to wait and teach according to your son’s individual timetable if you homeschool, of course. If he’s in school outside the home, it’s a much bigger issue since it affects other subjects where reading may be required, grades, etc. If he’s in that sort of situation, it might help to pick up a book like “teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons.” I’ve heard that a lot of kids really get bored with that book but it can be a good tool if you must find something to help ASAP.

      Also, reading “late” (and 6 is not late!) has no bearing on how well kids read later on. Keep in mind that Sweden has the highest reading scores in Europe and they don’t start teaching formal reading until age 7! There is a book out called “Better Late than Early” that talks about how it helps kids to wait on these things. I haven’t read it, but it’s very well reviewed. Waldorf schools in the U.S. also wait until age 7 to start teaching reading.

      Hope that helps. I can round up more stuff to help if you like too. 🙂

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