Teaching your child to read – practical tips




Teaching your child to read, or helping them improve their reading can be one of the most difficult and daunting educational tasks a parent faces.

This seems crazy, right?

We, as parents, know how to read, so why is it we feel so lost when helping our children? We can teach them to ride a bike, to count, make their bed, to brush their teeth, why should reading be any different?

It has been a long time since you learnt to read and you probably can’t even remember when you went from not knowing how to read, to suddenly being able to read. There’s also so much differing advice and different programs out there, that it can seem overly confusing

So, we thought we’d start with some basic tips to help you out.

Firstly, there is no quick fix. There is no one magic set of flash cards you can buy that all of a sudden teaches ‘reading’.

Teaching your child to recite the ‘ABC’ song is OK, but it won’t teach them to read. Your kids understanding the sounds each letter makes is more important when it comes to learning to read.


  1. Read to your child.

    Reading to children helps them hear those ever important phonemes and develops their knowledge of all the concepts covered above. Make word/sound associations as you read to them. Let them know that the words you are saying come from the symbols on the page. Use tracking (pointing to each sound/word with your finger) as you read to help them develop this understanding.

  2. Ask questions

    As you are reading to or with your child, ask them questions about the text at hand. Get them thinking about the meaning behind the words, the illustrations and the story.

  3. Set a good example.

    Let your child see you reading. You are their greatest role model, so model the behaviour that will assist them.

  4. Point out letters in a real-life, relaxed environment.

    Play games where they have to find examples of certain letters when you are out and about. Children love to find ‘their’ letter (the first letter of their name) so ask them to find this on signs, menus etc. and then extend this to the second letter of their name, or the first letter of their surname or randomly pick a letter of alphabet and have them find this. Look at letters used on traffic signals, shops etc. build the connection between the alphabet and the real world.

  5. Make books easily accessible.

    Have a wide variety of books around the house. This does not need to cost a fortune; a library is free, but if you want your own books (maybe your child is going through a ‘ripping the pages’ phase – been there!) op-shops, fetes and markets have seriously cheap books. Just make books a part of your child’s world.

  6. Use the senses.

    When teaching the letter names and sounds (and remember the sounds are more important) use activities that focus on a range of senses. Some ideas are:

  • throw a beanbag or ball at letter cards as the sound is said,
  • make letters out of Play Doh,
  • fill a zip-lock bag with shaving foam or paint and have your child use their finger to create the letter that matches the sound you give them,
  • name an item in the room and they have to tell you the letter/sound at the beginning of the word,
  • use your bodies to create the letters of the alphabet,
  • place large alphabet cards around the floor and dance or jump around to music, moving to a letter when the music stops and stating the letter name and sound,
  • singing the ‘alphabet’ song and then singing it with the sounds instead – this could be a good way to have a laugh
  • Learning how to read and spell the sound/letter combinations is a very important part of the reading process. So after hearing the phonemes, you are going to want to focus some attention on learning the phonics. There are some terrific online programs for this; Reading Eggs was very successful with my daughter. Remember, although this is an important part of the reading puzzle, reading comprehension is the end goal.


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