The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Your Kid to Read

How to teach kids to read.

Let me preface this by saying that I did not teach my kids to read. I have taught hundreds of kids to read as a teacher and tutor, but I did not teach my own. And unless you are a homeschooling parent or your kid goes to lousy schools, the burden (or joy, depending on your outlook) of teaching your kid to read should not be on your shoulders.

However, I did do some things to make it easier for my kids to learn to read and to make them good readers once they got the hang of it. And I might wind up teaching Hugmonkey to read this summer, just because he is so desperate to catch up to his brother and sister. Anyway. . .

I hear a LOT of parents talk about teaching their kids to read. Especially preschool parents. While a few kids are ready to read in preschool, most are not actually reading. They are memorizing books and words, which is fine but not very effective in the long run. It doesn't matter if your kid could "read" The Cat in the Hat at 4 when she is unable to comprehend chapter books in third grade. I'm not saying (necessarily) that your kid will turn into a great reader if you follow my advice, but it will definitely help.

The Ultimate Guide

  1. Read to your kid every day. Reading together and talking about books is a great predictor of future reading success. And once your kid is reading, reading together can still help with vocabulary and comprehension. 
  2. Introduce the concept of the alphabet, but don't do flashcards with your 2 year old. Point out letters on signs, read alphabet books, that kind of thing. 
  3. Begin teaching phonological awareness. This awareness lets kids understand and manipulate the sounds in words. If they can't do that, then "sounding out" unknown words will be next to impossible. 
  4. Emphasize rhyming. The ability to recognize rhymes as a young child is a huge predictor of future reading success. I wrote all about teaching kids rhyming skills in this post. 
  5. As your kid heads into kindergarten, I would introduce the concept of "sight words". These are words that you recognize on sight, without having to sound out (decode) them. Your child's name, for example, is hopefully a sight word at this point. If your child is eager to learn to read, you can try sight word flash cards in kindergarten. If your kiddo isn't motivated? Don't force it yet. Try again later in the school year.  
  6. Begin teaching phonics; this links the sounds heard in words with the letters that make those sounds. It is what helps us "sound out", or decode, unknown words. 
  7. So, now your kiddo is reading. . .but is s/he understanding what is read? That can be a challenge for a lot of kids, especially kids who memorized sight words and phonics rules easily. Comprehension skills are something that parents can work on at home easily. Even if you just discuss what you read together each night, you are helping your child learn to reflect on text.
  8. Skip the workbooks. Please. Your kid is much better off reading Captain Underpants for the 10th time than doing mind-numbing "comprehension" worksheets. You can come by next week for worksheet alternatives. 
  9. If you're look for more detailed instructions and information, please visit Reading Rockets. It's the best reading site I've found on the web. 
  10. Books early readers will love:

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Dr. Seuss's Beginner Book Collection (Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks)
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
10 Little Rubber Ducks

David Gets In Trouble
No, David!
Yo! Yes? (Scholastic Bookshelf)
Hi! Fly Guy
Scholastic Reader Level 2: Super Fly Guy
City Signs


How I Met Your Father*

Today is Hot Guy's birthday. I wanted to do a post about him, but I didn't want to do a typical birthday post. This one is inspired by "How I Met Your Mother" and a blog post series/link up I wrote in 2007 called "Soap Opera Sunday". It could also be entitled, "Why I Call My Husband 'Hot Guy' On My Blog."

Why my husband is called 'Hot Guy'.

When I moved to Kansas City, I was 27 and newly separated. I moved to KC for three reasons: because I got what I thought was my ideal teaching job there, because my ex-husband wasn't too far away in case the separation didn't take and because I was afraid to move back into my parents' house in New Jersey. 

After the first four months, I realized how happy I was without my ex, so I suggested a divorce. Slowly I started to get my self-esteem back. I made some friends. I volunteered and joined the art museum's young members group. I even started pseudo dating.  The guy was also recently divorced. We were little more than good friends, really, but people assumed we were dating and that was okay with me. He was attractive and funny, but there was something missing between us. 

Not that I was in any rush to become romantically entangled with anyone again. Especially after my  friend T got dumped and went on a singles scene rampage. Suddenly the suburban bars weren't good enough for her and she dragged me to Kelly's in Westport - one of the biggest pick-up spots in the Western hemisphere. After buying our trough-like beers, we spotted an empty table. Then T needed to go to the bathroom and R went to find chairs for our table. My job was to guard the beers from Roofie spilling sickos. 

Naturally two seconds after the others left a sleazy older guy slid over to me and started talking. I panicked when I realized that my usual suburban bar tactics (escape to the bathroom, get an acquaintance to get rid of him) wouldn't work. I couldn't carry the three troughs of beer anywhere, and I didn't want to lose the table. I started dropping hints that I wasn't interested, but sleazy guy didn't notice. He even took a step closer and I couldn't move away because I had to stand between him and our beers. 

Then I looked up and saw a cute guy shuffling through the narrow aisle nearby. He was looking at me and I decided to take a chance. "Honey!" I called as I waved to him frantically. As he came closer, I realized that he was a very young cute guy. A possibly not even old enough to be in the bar cute guy. Would he get what was going on? 

Sleazy guy leaned over and said to my chest, "Is that your------" and then all of a sudden I was being kissed. 


Teachers Change Lives

As most of you already know, I used to be a teacher. I taught in an urban school district and I could have spent my entire (fairly meager) paycheck on supplies for my classroom and stuff for my students. As it was, I spent more than I should have. On necessities like paper and on enriching things like books. Heck, even Hot Guy spent money on my classroom; he built a model rocket with my students when we were dating. Plus, I had to buy stuff every time we had a class party, because many of my students' parents couldn't afford to send in treats. My former students are teenagers now and I don't know how many of them remember their first or second grade teacher, but I like to think that teaching them to read changed their lives for their better.

Office Depot's Teachers Change Lives program recognizes how many teachers spend their own money and most of their free time helping students succeed. They've partnered with Adopt-A-Classroom to recognize and help all the amazing teachers across the country.

I teared up (just a little) watching this video. #TeachersChangeLives, and these students are proof. Watch as students express how much their teachers mean to them.

  • How to Donate to the Teachers Change Lives Program
    1. Go to Teachers Change Lives
    2. Click on the teal "Donate to a Teacher" box on the Teachers Change Lives website, which will take you to the Adopt-A-Classroom website.
    3. Follow their directions. 
  • How to Register Your Classroom as a Teacher
    1. Go to Teachers Change Lives.
    2. Click on the red box that says "Register Your Classroom," which will take you to the Adopt-A-Classroom website.
    3. Follow the directions provided. 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Piet Mondrian for Kids (Crafts for Lazy Parents)

One of the first artists' styles I remember recognizing is Piet Mondrian's. Even though Mondrian started off as an impressionist in late 19th century Amsterdam, years in Paris and his own spiritual quest led him to develop Neoplasticism. I don't remember that word, nor do I remember another description of Mondrian's later paintings: geometric abstraction.

But the black lines, rectangles and primary colors?

Those I've remembered for more than 30 years.

How could primary colors and simple black lines NOT appeal to a kid who liked art but felt she had no artistic ability?