Teaching kids how to read

While learning to read happens over the course of many, many years, there are plenty of things you can do at home to help your young child learn to read.

Learning Stages

By Carolyn James, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Literacy Expert

As the literacy development expert on LeapFrog’s Learning Team, Carolyn ensures that the curricular design in LeapFrog products is grounded in the latest educational research. Before joining LeapFrog, Carolyn was a reading professor at Sacramento State University, a curriculum developer for the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, and a teacher in the San Francisco bay area. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology at Michigan State University.

“How can I teach my child to read?” is the most common question we hear from parents! It’s important to remember that reading skills are developed over many, many years. Learning to read is more than just sounding out the words on the page—it’s also about learning new things, enjoying a great story and having fun with words.

Research has suggested that a balanced approach to literacy works best for most children. That approach includes helping children explore letters and the sounds they make—the foundation of phonics—but also immersing children in literature and building their oral vocabularies. In fact, introducing young children to letters and sounds as they are engaged in read-aloud experiences, reciting nursery rhymes, playing with magnetic letters or singing the ABC song can lay the foundation they’ll need as they enter kindergarten.

There are plenty of fun things you can do at home to build these early literacy skills: 

  • Talk, sing, and play with your child to build oral language skills. Oral language is developed when children are encouraged to have frequent, meaningful conversations with family members and caregivers. Use clear language, make eye contact and respond enthusiastically—this gives children confidence in their communication skills. You can also build oral language by acting out favorite stories or doing finger plays.
  • Point to words as you read. Also point out letters that are in your child’s name. This helps your child build the understanding that words are made up of letters and that text typically moves from left to right across the page.
  • Involve the whole family. Have older siblings join in, and make your reading time together active and fun. Make sure your child sees reading and writing used in your home for a variety of purposes. Grocery lists, magazines, novels on the nightstand—every example of print in the home sends the message that reading and writing are an important, fun part of life.