How to Teach the Alphabet (And Make it Easy and Fun!)

How to Teach the Alphabet (And Make it Easy and Fun!)

How to teach the alphabet is the often the first thing parents wonder about when they want to start developing pre-reading skills in their children. And it’s a great place to start!

(To learn everything you need to know about developing reading readiness skills in your child, take my online digital course for parents, How to Raise a Reader – Reading Readiness Edition.)

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How to Teach the Alphabet to Kids. | reading readiness | preschool | kindergarten | learning to read |Why is Teaching the Alphabet Such a Great Place to Start?

For the most part, teaching kids the alphabet is straightforward and easy. It’s an area in which parents generally feel confident – we all know the alphabet song, right? 

And materials are easy to find – alphabet books, magnetic letters, alphabet toys and alphabet puzzles are readily available on Amazon, and at Target, Walmart and dollar stores.

Best of all, it’s FUN.

No matter what age your child is (birth to late Kindergarten), I believe that you should be “teaching” the alphabet, at least at some level. (Yes, I know this is a controversial statement, but stay with me here.)

“Teaching” the alphabet to kids looks and sounds very different depending upon the ages of the children.


How to Introduce the Alphabet to Babies – Yes, Babies! how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

For babies, it’s all about low-key, natural exposure. Make the alphabet an ordinary, expected part of your home environment and daily routine.

Think about this – nursery decor, books, and toys for babies are themed with basic concepts such as colors, shapes, animals, foods, nursery rhymes, etc. Make sure that the alphabet is included in there somewhere, too.

My favorite way to do this is by reading aloud lots of alphabet books. Just as you would point out objects in a book when you are reading to a baby – “Look, there’s the elephant,” – you can point out letters just as naturally. You might say “I see the letter B,” while you point to it, and then keep moving right along through the book.

I also like to have a simple, clear alphabet chart or poster as decor in a nursery.  And be sure to include the alphabet song in your repertoire of lullabies.

I want to be very clear here. You are NOT teaching the alphabet, per se. You are making it an ordinary part of your home environment and family culture. The goal is to make the alphabet a natural part of the background in your baby’s life.


Helping Toddlers Learn the Alphabet

Take a look at that heading just above – notice that I used the term “learn” as opposed to “teach.” With toddlers, it’s all about helping them LEARN the alphabet, as opposed to TEACHING them the alphabet.

To help younger toddlers learn the alphabet, start casually building on the exposure you established during babyhood. This is the time to add a few alphabet toys to your child’s toy box.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabetBe more purposeful when reading alphabet books. Transition from telling the name of a letter to inviting your toddler to point to a letter – “Where is the B? Show me the letter B.” If they can’t, point to the letter and say, “There’s the B!” Keep it fun, brief, and low-key.

Use your home’s alphabet chart in this same way. “Read” it together once each day, perhaps as part of the bedtime routine.

Toddlers are usually able to point to letters before they can say the names of the letters. Once you notice that your little one can say the names of some letters, start asking, “What is this letter?” as you point. If they have trouble, say it yourself and encourage them to repeat it. Keep it conversational, and don’t ever let it sound like a demand or a test.


If Kids Can Learn That a Cow Says “Moo,” They Can Learn That the /b/ Sound Goes With the Letter B

For older toddlers who seem ready, you can repeat this process with letter sounds. Always start by modeling – “That’s the letter B. /b/, /b, /b/.” When the time seems right, move on to prompting “What sound does B make?” Again, if they have any trouble, say it yourself and encourage them to repeat it. Keep it as casual as any other conversation you share with your toddler.

The goal is for your toddler to learn to identify letters by name and know their sounds in the same way that the rest of their language is developing – naturally, and on their own personal timeline.


Tools for Learning the Alphabet

Toddler-hood is the time to introduce magnetic letters and foam letters for the bathtub. Keep a set of jumbo magnetic letters on the fridge and draw attention to them in the same way you do with alphabet books. I like to have uppercase magnetic letters and lowercase magnetic letters.

Use magnetic letters to form your child’s name, and point it out to them every day. This is a great way to start developing the concept that letters form words, which convey meaning. 

Toddlers love to play with jumbo magnetic letters, stacking them, rearranging them on the fridge, and taking them in and out of containers. Continue modeling by commenting casually – “You’re putting the letter M in the tub, aren’t you?” Then move along to inviting participation – “Can you hand me the letter W?” You can make these same activities a part of your child’s bath-time by adding foam letters to your collection of bath toys. Early on in your child’s journey to learning the alphabet, magnetic letters should be more of a toy, not a formal learning tool. It won’t be long before you’re using them to reinforce letter sounds and early spelling skills.

If your older toddler seems ready, do the same sort of activity with sounds.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabetAlong with plush toys, blocks, play vehicles and dolls, be sure to include alphabet puzzles and alphabet games in your child’s toy box. This is another way to make letters and sounds a natural part of your home’s culture and environment.

Alphabet puzzles help your child develop fine motor, visual discrimination and problem-solving skills while physically touching and exploring the letters of the alphabet. Work on these together at first, until your child has built some success in fitting the letters back into their spaces. Try offering one letter puzzle piece at a time, and pointing to the general area of the puzzle frame where it can be found. Offer clues – “Can you find the picture of the ball, for the letter B?” 


Teaching the Alphabet to Preschoolers

Up until around age three, I recommend keeping letter and sound activities informal and casual. At around age three, as kids move into the preschool years, they should interact with letters and sounds in a more purposeful way. Start including 10-15 minutes of more structured (but still fun!) alphabet activities in your daily routine.

Continue modeling, especially with sounds, but invite your child to actively participate more often. In addition to taking advantage of learning opportunities as they come up, start intentionally creating fun teaching opportunities. Add a few alphabet games to your home and establish a weekly family game night. Suggest doing an alphabet puzzle together, and then comment on or ask your child to identify most of the letters rather than just a few. Have your child watch LeapFrog’s Letter Factory while you are cooking dinner. (It’s an incredibly effective way to reinforce letters and sounds.)


Flashcards Can Be Fantastichow to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

While I don’t recommend using flashcards to “drill” your preschooler, they are invaluable for playing games and creating alphabet activities. A great physical activity is to have your child lay alphabet flashcards out on the floor in order, and then read them aloud, walking or crawling along the line of cards.

Or, grab your tub of magnetic letters and have your preschooler place each one on top of its matching flashcard. You can tape flashcards around the house and send your child on a treasure hunt to see how many letters they can find.

Buy two of the same sets and use them for playing matching games or “concentration.” Play bingo by pulling a few flashcards from one set to create a bingo card, and using the other set for letters to “call.” With two sets, you can even play a limited version of “Go Fish.”

Once each day, point to each card in order from left to right and “read” the card with your child. This activity is a great addition to your bedtime story routine. For babies and toddlers, just say the name of the letter and the name of the picture. For preschoolers and Kindergartners, say the name of the letter, the name of the picture, and the sound.


Invest in an Excellent Alphabet Curriculumalphabet activities for kids

If you are homeschooling, or you want to provide activities in a more systematic way, invest in a high-quality alphabet curriculum. This Reading Mama has an unbelievable, affordable product called the “Learning the Alphabet Bundle.” It’s jam-packed with powerful hands-on activities for learning letters and letter sounds. To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend purchasing a downloadable bundle product such as this rather than just picking up alphabet workbooks here and there. You’ll receive many more activities to choose from, and you can download and print out exactly what your child needs.

Any of the activities the Learning the Alphabet Bundle would be great for that 10-15 minutes of structured alphabet learning time that I recommend for preschoolers. When we provide engaging activities like these, kids learn much more easily and quickly. I guarantee there is something in this bundle that your child will fall in love with, which will totally supercharge their alphabet learning!


Developing Deep Letter Knowledgehow to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

In order to become a skilled, fluent reader and writer, your child needs to develop deep letter knowledge. And the time to do this is during Pre-K and the beginning of Kindergarten. If you haven’t started using a curriculum like the “Learning the Alphabet Bundle,” now is definitely the time to add 10-15 minutes of structured alphabet activities to your child’s day.

Having deep letter knowledge means that your child can:

  • Readily identify all lowercase and uppercase letters by name.
  • Write each lowercase and uppercase letter.
  • Hear a vowel or consonant sound and immediately know which letter represents it.
  • Look at a letter and articulate the sound it makes.

True mastery of these four skills takes time – from informal babyhood exposure to direct instruction during Pre-K and Kindergarten. It takes steady, age-appropriate practice and review at the same time your child is developing other reading readiness skills.

Whether you are homeschooling or reinforcing what your child learns in preschool, Pre-K or Kindergarten, isn’t it wonderful that you can set your child up for success in learning to read by something as simple as teaching the alphabet? You’ll never regret taking advantage of this amazing power and precious opportunity.


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Alphabet Puzzles for Kids (With a Video Review of My Favorite)

Alphabet Puzzles for Kids (With a Video Review of My Favorite)

Alphabet puzzles are great tools for teaching and learning in your home. They are interactive (your child is physically doing something) as opposed to passive (just taking in information), and they’re just plain FUN. Obviously puzzles are meant to be put together, but used separately, the pieces themselves make awesome toys and manipulatives for learning letters and sounds.

I had honestly forgotten how much I LOVE alphabet puzzles. I went on a search for some of my favorites over the years, and ended up getting lost in happy browsing.

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Let’s start off with these two favorite alphabet puzzles that I’ve loved for years.


The Melissa & Doug See-Inside Alphabet Peg Puzzle

This Melissa & Doug See-Inside Alphabet Peg Puzzle is the perfect all purpose alphabet puzzle. The colors are vibrant and  the shapes of the letters are clear. The little pegs on the pieces makes them easy to take in and out, and are perfect for little fingers to practice a pincer grasp.

There’s a cute picture under each puzzle piece, so you can use this puzzle to start matching sounds with letters. Simple and classic.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Click on the video below to watch as I share all the reasons that this puzzle is a great choice.

Melissa & Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle – Wooden Puzzle With Sound Effects

The Melissa & Doug Alphabet Sound Puzzle also has clear, brightly colored uppercase letters. It adds sound, making it a bit more versatile. As each letter piece is popped into place, the puzzle plays a recording of that letter’s name and sound.

Kids LOVE this because it is such an immediate reward for putting the piece in the correct to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Alphabet & Numbers Foam Puzzle

Foam puzzles are great because they offer a different tactile experience than cardboard or wooden puzzles. Foam is easier to cut into precise forms, so the shapes of the letters tend to be more accurate. Because of this, I like to have kids practice letter formation by tracing their index finger along the top surface of each foam letter.

Foam alphabet puzzles are easy to find at your local dollar store, but if you need convenience, here’s this set at Amazon. Of course, I love that it includes both lowercase and uppercase well-shaped letters! (And as a bonus, you get a foam number puzzle, too.)

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Melissa & Doug Alphabet Express Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle

Floor puzzles are fantastic choices for reinforcing the alphabet because they involve physical exercise as kids move around putting the pieces in order. They are also offer valuable opportunities for children to work together cooperatively.

This Melissa & Doug Alphabet Express Jumbo Jigsaw Floor Puzzle features both lowercase and uppercase letters, along with an adorable friendly animal to represent each letter.

The pieces are thick enough that they can stand up on their own on an uncarpeted surface. How cool is that? You could make a ten foot long alphabet train and then scoot it along the floor as if it were chugging down a track. It would also make a great prop for imaginative play, maybe along with blocks to build a train to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

The Learning Journey Match It! – Upper & Lower Case Letters – Self-Correcting Alphabet Matching Puzzle

Alphabet matching puzzles are fun and motivating for kids. They love to find the two or three pieces that belong together for each letter. These next two choices are great for older preschoolers and kindergartners, or any child who is still working on matching letters and sounds.

This Learning Journey Match It! – Upper & Lower Case Letters – Self-Correcting Alphabet Matching Puzzle is awesome because it includes both lowercase and uppercase letters AND a picture to represent the letter. The three pieces for each letter all face up, with no back side.

A great option is to pull out the pieces for just a few letters at a time, for a few minutes at a time. You don’t have to tackle the whole set, but your child feels the satisfaction of a finished puzzle for each letter that you did choose.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Fun-to-Know® Puzzles: Uppercase & Lowercase Alphabet

If your child is an older preschooler or kindergartner and you are starting to work with words, the Fun-to-Know® Puzzles: Uppercase & Lowercase Alphabet is a terrific choice.

There are two puzzle pieces for each letter, printed on both sides. One side matches lowercase and uppercase, and the other side matches a picture with a word. So flexible! You could have your child match a letter to its picture, then flip over the letter to take a look at the word and complete the puzzle.     

Remember to offer the pieces for a few letters at a time, to avoid overwhelm and frustration, and build success and keep it fun.   

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Learning Resources Alphabet Puzzle Cards

These Learning Resources Alphabet Puzzle Cards are different because each letter is a two-piece puzzle by itself. Each one is approximately 5 inches tall and features two or three pictures of items that start with that letter. 

You know what I would love to do with these? Mod Podge them together and use them as wall decor in a child’s bedroom.  I’d probably buy one set to play with and one set to use as a wall border or to create an alphabet chart at a child-friendly height. They’ve got numbers available, too!how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Each of these alphabet puzzles offers different opportunities for your child to explore letters and sounds in a fun, engaging way. Pick one today to liven up and refresh your family’s collection of alphabet toys and games. You may discover that it re-ignites or increases your child’s interest in working with the alphabet.

Keep these in mind as gifts for preschoolers and kindergarten-age children, too. You can’t go wrong with a good quality alphabet book, puzzle, or game!

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10 Terrific Alphabet Books to Treasure With Your Kids

10 Terrific Alphabet Books to Treasure With Your Kids

Teaching the alphabet to toddlers, preschoolers or kindergartners doesn’t ever have to be tedious or boring, or hard work – for you or your child. It can and should be fun and easy for everyone in your family.

alphabet books for childrenAlphabet books are an important part of your family library.They provide exposure to letters and sounds with all the benefits of reading aloud to your child.

Kids who have seen and heard the alphabet through the happy experience of being read aloud to by a loving adult will absorb so much knowledge about letters and sounds. You’ll be amazed at how easily and naturally it happens.

Try to snuggle up together with at least one alphabet book every day. Keep book baskets in convenient places throughout your home, and make sure each basket contains an inviting alphabet book. Stow a couple in the back seat of the car, and send one along on trips to the grandparents’ house.

The great thing about alphabet books is that as soon as your child can recognize a handful of letters, they can “read” an alphabet book by looking for the letters they know.

This list was so hard to narrow down, but here are ten of my favorite alphabet books, in no particular order.

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A to Z by Sandra Boynton

My husband and I loved reading Sandra Boynton books to our kids. A to Z by Sandra Boynton is filled with her whimsical animal characters, each one representing a letter and performing an activity starting with that same letter.

Most of the activities are likely to be familiar to young children, but some provide more unique opportunities for vocabulary development. My personal favorite is “Aardvark Admiring,” with an illustration of a smiling aardvark adjusting his bowtie.

There’s no particular storyline – just simple, clear illustrations of one animal and one activity representing each letter. It’s a great book for introducing the alphabet to toddlers, and preschoolers can quickly memorize it and “read” it to themselves.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells

Next up is Max’s ABC by Rosemary Wells. The “Max” books by Rosemary Wells are subtly hilarious and the sibling relationship between Max and Ruby is so sweet.

I’ve seen kids get so excited when they realize that they already know Max and Ruby from other books and the Nick Jr. television show.

This alphabet book features a silly storyline that gets crazier and crazier as Ruby tries to help Max solve the problems created when his ants escape from their ant farm. I love that each page focuses on just one letter while still maintaining a plot! The rhythm of the story makes it fun for adults to read and easy for kids to chime along with. 

(As an aside, a great thing about the 40+ Max books is that there is one for just about every childhood experience imaginable.) I always enjoyed finding books that matched what was going on in my kids’ lives when they were little.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

No list of alphabet books would be complete without the classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.  I included this book in this post, and everything I said over there applies here, too.

I appreciate that this book features lowercase letters in addition to uppercase letters. (One of my pet peeves is that kids need exposure to both uppercase and lowercase letters, right from the start.)  I also love that John Archambault illustrated the letters crisply and clearly so that it’s easy for children to tell them apart and notice the differences in their shapes.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet



The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra

How cute is the idea of Alphabet Town? In The Sleepy Little Alphabet, parents (the uppercase or capital letters) are trying to put the children (the lowercase letters) to bed. It is not going smoothly. Excuses and stalling abound, and will be familiar to parents and children alike.

To me, half the fun of the naughtiness and silliness is in the expressions on the letters’ faces. The uppercase parents actually look harassed, and the lowercase kids are gleeful.

The illustrations are simple and clear, but there is plenty of detail to notice. Lowercase “f” is holding flowers, lowercase “j” is jumping, and lowercase “s” is swinging. In a nice satisfying ending, lowercase “y” is yawning, and lowercase “z” is snoring cute little “zzzzzzz’s”.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

Click on the video below to watch as I share my new favorite alphabet book.


Dr. Seuss’s ABC

Another classic, Dr. Seuss’s ABC is as zany as any of the Dr. Seuss books, and equally as fun to read aloud. Full of nonsense words, awesome rhythm and ridiculous rhymes, it asks “Big B, little b, what begins with B?” and then answers with a tongue-twisting alliteration of a response.

The illustrations are vintage Seuss, colorful and imaginative.

Two things I really like about this book: it includes both lowercase and uppercase letters, and it matter-of-factly presents the ideas that letters represent sounds and words begin with specific letters.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet



Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert

It’s always nice to find a themed alphabet book that can be used in many ways. Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables weaves in nutrition, culture and geography with pictures of fruits and vegetables from all over the world, illustrated in Lois Ehlert’s unique watercolor collage style.

It’s sort of a picture dictionary of fruits and vegetables, with an encyclopedia included at the back in the form of a detailed, illustrated glossary. I bet you’ll come across a fruit or vegetable that you haven’t heard of before!

This one is great for older children as well; you could find the locations on a map or prepare a newly discovered fruit or vegetable for the family to try.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet


My First ABC by DK

My First ABC by DK is part of the “My First Books” series and it certainly lives up to that name. This sturdy board book is perfect as a first alphabet book for babies, with just a few clear and colorful photographs for each letter.

This visual style and layout is the easiest for babies to focus on at a very young age. A few months later, it lends itself beautifully to asking a baby or toddler “Can you find the ________?” and watching chubby little fingers proudly point to the item named.

Each photograph is labeled clearly, making it easy for adults to point to the word as we read it. This starts developing print awareness, the understanding that the little black marks on the page have meaning. An early understanding of this concept makes learning to read so much easier later on.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet


Sesame Street: Elmo’s ABC Lift-the-Flap

Elmo’s ABC Lift the Flap offers a rich experience in so many ways. The pages are busier than some of the other books I’ve mentioned, and a single two-page spread offers plenty to look at, find, discuss, or do.

Each letter is on a large flap that lifts up to reveal a picture and a sentence or two. Many smaller flaps throughout the book lift up to show pictures underneath. Almost everything on each page is clearly labeled.

If you want to keep the flaps intact, you might want to keep this book reserved for reading to and with your child, as opposed to reading by your child.

This is a great choice for toddlers and preschoolers who love Sesame Street and are familiar with the characters.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet



A Is for Apple (Smart Kids Trace-And-Flip)

A Is For Apple is a simple book that offers so much. It’s an interactive book that offers a kinesthetic aspect, with grooved letter shapes for kids to trace with an index finger or stylus.

Uppercase and lowercase letters are included, with two simple pictures for each letter. One of the pictures is printed on a flap, and the other is revealed when the flap is lifted.

Perfect for children ages one to three, this book makes a great first birthday gift or gift for any one-year-old.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet



Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham

Like Sleepy Little Alphabet and Max’s ABC, Z Is for Moose has a definite plot. It elicits giggles and roars of laughter, as Moose impatiently tries to claim his time on stage during Zebra’s ABC production. Be sure to look carefully at the illustrations to catch all the humor.

When Moose isn’t chosen to represent the letter “M,” his tantrum is epic, and readers will wonder how this situation can possibly be resolved. Because Z is NOT for Moose, right? Turns out that it can be, when friendship saves the day.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet
I hope you’ll use this list as a starting point for a baby’s or toddler’s alphabet book collection, or as inspiration for expanding the library of a preschooler or kindergartner.

Include alphabet books like these in your read alouds on a regular basis, and I promise you’ll be delighted with your child’s easy, natural progress.

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How to Develop Reading Readiness in Your Child

How to Develop Reading Readiness in Your Child

You may have heard that Kindergarten is harder these days, and let me tell you, IT IS!  When I started teaching 25 years ago, Kindergarten was all about reading readiness, NOT learning to read.

Today, we expect Kindergartners to come in with reading readiness skills solidly in process, so that actual reading instruction can start as soon as possible.  By the end of the school year, these little guys are expected to be early readers!

Fortunately, reading readiness in preschoolers is easy and fun to develop. There tons of wonderful reading readiness activities and games for preschoolers that you can enjoy with your child as part of your family’s everyday life.

Here is a quick overview of the ten reading readiness skills your child needs in order to learn how to read. I’ve also included a few tips and activities to help you nurture those skills in a fun, natural way.

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Book Handling Skills and Concepts About Print

These two skills are your child’s ability to understand and recognize the way books and print “work.” Take a look at the list below.  Before Kindergarten, we hope that the first four are fully mastered, and the remaining three are solidly in process.

The easiest, most natural way for you to help your child develop book handling skills and concepts about print is to make reading aloud a regular part of your daily routine, pointing out the following concepts in a low-key manner as you go along.

*Books have parts such a front and back cover and title page.
*Pages are turned from left to right.
*Text is read from left to right and top to bottom.
*Letters and words on the page have meaning and are providing a message.
*A cluster of letters can create a word.
*Words are separated by spaces.
*Several words strung together can create a sentence.


Learning the Alphabet – Recognizing and Identifying Letters

what allows children to master the ability to read?When shown a lowercase or uppercase letter, your child needs to be able to promptly recognize it and say its name.

Hang an alphabet chart in a handy place and a few times a day, help your child practice touching underneath each letter and saying its name. Alphabet flash cards are great for matching and memory games. Point out letters in your child’s environment or play “I Spy.”

Learning to Write the Letters of the Alphabet

Your child should be learning to form uppercase and lowercase letters, starting at the top of each letter.

Writing the letters of the alphabet can be practiced in so many ways – try letting your child make letters in shaving cream on the side of the bathtub, or in pudding on a tray, and provide plenty of paper and crayons, markers and pencils. One of my favorite alphabet writing activities is to use the app “Letter School,” and have your child use both an index finger and a stylus.



what allows children to master the ability to read?Matching Letters to Sounds

When the name of a letter is said out loud, your child needs to be able to provide the matching sound.

You can work on this very casually, pointing out letters in your child’s environment and saying the sound for your child to repeat back to you, or you can use games and flashcards to address this more directly.


what allows children to master the ability to read?

Matching Sounds to Letters

This is a little trickier. When you child hears a letter sound, or “phoneme,” they need to be able to say the letter for that sound.

Again, you can work on this directly with alphabet games and flashcards or in a more casual way by commenting on the sounds as they come up. For example, when cutting up an apple for lunch, you might say, “Apple, apple, I hear the /a/ sound.  That’s the sound for the letter ‘a’.”


Word Awareness/Word Counting

Word awareness is the knowledge that sentences are made up of separate words in a particular order, and that this conveys meaning.

Most young children do know this intuitively, but bringing it to a higher level of awareness is important in the development of reading and writing. Try saying short sentences with your child and counting the number of words on your fingers. Use sentences from everyday life “We-will-go-to-the-park-today,” or favorite books, “In-the-great-green-room…”


Hearing Syllables/Counting Syllables

Your child needs to be able to hear how words break into syllables.

This is easy to teach and fun to practice. The most common way to teach this is to clap as you say each syllable in a word, and then count the claps. Start with two syllable words and three syllable words and then double back to one syllable words once your child understands the skill.


Onset & Rime

In almost all cases, a syllable can be divided into two parts. The onset is the first part of a syllable, and it is the initial sound. Notice that I didn’t say initial letter there – the onset is the initial sound. So it could be the /k/ sound or the /m/ sound, with one letter, but it could just as commonly be the /sh/ sound or the /pr/ sound, with two letters. The “rime” is the remainder of the syllable, usually a vowel and any remaining consonants.

Your child needs to be able to hear the individual sound at the beginning of a single syllable word, and then hear the remainder of the word as one piece.

This sounds tricky, and it does take some practice. You might say to your child, “I am going to say a word in pieces or parts. You listen and put the parts together and tell me what word I said.” This would sound like you saying “/c/ – /at/” and then your child providing the word, “cat.”



Exposure to rhyming helps children notice and work with the sounds within words. Heading into Kindergarten, your child should be able to identify words that rhyme, and produce words that rhyme.

There are so many fun rhyming activities for preschoolers out there! Reading nursery rhymes and poems and of course rhyming books is a great way to develop this skill. You can also play oral rhyming games with your child – “Let’s say all the words we can think of that rhyme with ‘cat’.”


Hearing Beginning and Ending Sounds

Your child needs to be able to hear the sounds within words, and the place to start is with beginning and ending sounds. Encouraging children to hear beginning sounds comes more naturally. We all seem to say to our children, “What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word ‘ball’?”

However, being able to isolate and hear ending sounds is also important. Use words that have a clear consonant at the end and say “What sound do you hear at the end of the word ______?” Be sure to provide plenty of modeling before expecting your child to do this on their own.


what allows children to master the ability to read?As you think about your child and these ten reading readiness skills, you will notice that your child shines in some areas and needs a little more support in others. This is completely normal!

Children enter school with different levels of reading readiness, and all of these skills are embedded in the Kindergarten curriculum, even as direct reading instruction begins. As a parent, you have tremendous power and a precious opportunity to set your child up for easier success in phonics and reading by reinforcing these skills at home.

Use daily read alouds to casually draw attention to these skills, in a low-key way, and look for opportunities to play oral games with rhyming and letters and sounds throughout your day -in the car, while waiting for an appointment, or during mealtimes. If you want to provide more formal instruction with commercial teaching materials, keep it light-hearted, enjoyable and brief. Before you know it, your child will be ready to read!

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How to Choose Great Books for Kids

How to Choose Great Books for Kids

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What is a Great Book?

A great book pulls kids in, and then holds their attention.  It has clear, engaging illustrations, or uses language that makes it easy to visualize the story. A good book might be comforting and familiar, or new and exciting. It might be an award winner that comes up in your Amazon recommendations or on Pinterest, or a simple board book you pick up in the checkout line at the grocery store. The bottom line is, a great book is any book that your family enjoys.

How to Choose Great Books

Take look at current favorites. Do your kids love silly rhyming books with whimsical illustrations? Or do they gravitate towards non-fiction books with realistic photography? Is there a chapter book series they enjoy? Consider current interests.  Has your child recently become obsessed with buses or garbage trucks?  Or do your kids settle right down when you reach for a book that depicts warm cozy family or school situations? Ask your kids for input – what would they like to learn more about?  What is their teacher reading out loud right now? What books do they see their friends reading? Involving your children in this process will skyrocket their buy-in and excitement for reading.

Books for Infants and Toddlers

Look for:How to Choose Books for Babies and Toddlers

  • Books with big, bold, colorful pictures of familiar or everyday objects or activities.
  • Sturdy books made of heavy cardboard, washable cloth, or plastic.
  • Small books that are easy for little hands to hold and turn the pages.
  • Stories told in short, simple sentences with pictures that explain the text.
  • Poems and rhymes that make the book fun to read aloud and fun to listen to.

Books for Preschoolers (Ages 3-5)

Look for:

  • Books that highlight basic concepts, such as colors, shapes, letters and numbers.
  • Rhyme and repetition.
  • Photographs and illustrations that are clear, colorful and engaging.
  • Simple, fun plots with action that moves quickly.
  • Stories about everyday life and familiar events in a child’s day-to-day life.
  • Main characters (human or animal) who are your child’s age or just a little bit older.

Books for Elementary School Kids (Ages 6-11)

Look for:

  • Books that reflect your child’s interests and passions.
  • Other books with your child’s favorite characters, or by favorite authors and illustrators.
  • Illustrations and photos that directly support the text and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Project, craft, and recipe books with clearly worded instructions and supportive illustrations.
  • Picture books your child enjoyed hearing when they were younger. Most picture books are written at a third or fourth grade level, and are terrific to revisit when your child becomes a more independent reader.
  • Chapter books that your child can read independently, or higher level chapter books for you to read aloud.
  • Fact books, such as world record books, trivia books, and almanacs.

Books for Adolescents (Ages 12 and Up)

Look for:
How to Choose Books for Adolescents

  • New genres – biographies, mysteries, spy thrillers, classics, historical fiction, and mythology.
  • Books about places in the world that interest your child, or that they are studying in school.
  • Novels that depict characters dealing with the daily challenges of growing up.
  • Graphic novels that re-tell classic stories.


Involve Your Child

Perhaps most importantly, involve your kids in choosing new books.  Encourage them to join you as you look for new titles, and model your thought process as you consider new books to add to your family library. Learning how to choose great books is a reading skill that your child will use forever.




3 Tips for Reading to Your Baby

3 Tips for Reading to Your Baby

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A friend recently asked me, “how do I read to a baby?” and it really got me thinking.  I read aloud to school-age children every day, and occasionally to preschoolers.  But its been years since I took Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to the hospital with me when I went into labor with my oldest child.  Like my friend, you may have learned about the benefits of reading aloud to your child, and be fired up to get started.  Use the tips below to help make the most of this experience.

Choose the Right Books

The best books for newborn babies have rhyme, rhythm, and repetition.  Your baby loves to hear your familiar voice, and books that rhyme, follow a rhythm, or repeat phrases and words are soothing to your little one. Mother Goose nursery rhymes are always a good choice. For older babies, add books that feature daily routines such as eating, playing or sleeping. Find books that illustrate concepts such as inside, outside, under, after, or next. Your older baby will love books with colorful photos or pictures of everyday objects. Board books are wonderful because they are tough to tear and can take some chewing.

Make it Comfortable and Cozy

reading to babies

Cuddling up to read aloud is cozy and relaxing for both you and your baby. Pick a time when your baby is fed, changed, and rested. You may want to offer your baby a toy to hold and chew while listening to you read. Find a comfortable place to sit, use a soft voice, and don’t go too fast. Make this experience as gentle, soothing and relaxing as possible.  The goal is for your baby to associate reading and books with comfort and pleasure.  If your baby fusses, stop and try again later.

Keep it Short and Simple

At the beginning, read for short periods of 2-3 minutes, several times during the day. These short periods of time will get longer and longer as your baby’s attention span develops. Read the same books over and over again so that they become very familiar to your baby.  This enhances language development, helps build reading into a routine, and lets your baby start to anticipate the experience.

Watch for signs that your baby is responding – you may notice them quiet down, start to focus on bright pictures, or wiggle their arms and legs. Older babies will make noises to try to “join in.” Respond to these noises as if you are having a real conversation about the book with your baby! The benefits of reading aloud are priceless, and its never too early or too late to make it a treasured part of your baby’s childhood.



Why Reading Aloud is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Kids

Why Reading Aloud is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Kids

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The benefits of reading aloud just can’t be overstated. Reading books to kids is easy, it’s enjoyable, and it is so, so worth it.  Discover the magic that reading aloud to children can bring into your home!


why reading aloud children is important why reading to your child is important why reading to your children is important the benefits of reading to childrenListening to stories and being surrounded by books teaches kids how to love books and reading, right from the start.

A child who loves to listen to stories will see books as a source of warm, positive experiences, and will keep coming back for more.  The first time a toddler or preschooler hands a book to you with an expectant look on their sweet little face, you will know you are well on your way to raising a child who loves to read.

Reading with a baby or a toddler creates cozy bonding opportunities that you’ll cherish forever.

The warmth, safety and comfort of your lap are just what your baby or toddler needs to feel secure and happy.  Add reading aloud to talking, singing and playing peek-a-boo, and you’ll build a strong foundation of trust and love.

the importance of reading aloud to children why reading to your child is important why reading to your children is importantReading aloud enhances your child’s early language development.

Reading to babies exposes them to the unique sounds and patterns of language during a time of explosive brain development. Take advantage of this opportunity!  Babies, toddlers and preschoolers who listen to books and stories have richer language development and a deeper vocabulary. You’ll be tickled pink when you hear your preschooler correctly using a fancy word that you recognize from a familiar shared book.

Reading aloud develops specific reading readiness skills that children need before they can learn to read books on their own.

At the most basic level, reading aloud teaches children how to hold a book, and how to turn pages.  Reading aloud develops crucial phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear individual sounds in words and orally manipulate or “play with” those sounds. For example, saying a word slowly and being able to hear each sound individually “C—A—T” requires phonemic awareness.  (This sounds easy, but it’s not!)  Reading aloud also fosters the ability to rhyme, another important part of phonemic awareness.  Lastly, reading aloud helps children develop print awareness – the idea that those little black marks on the page are letters, which make words, which mean something!  This can be a thrilling realization for kids, and it is the most fundamental concept of reading.

Reading aloud fosters strong family relationships by building shared interests and providing topics for lively discussions.

Nothing is more fun than having the whole family fall in love with a book and share the excited anticipation for the next chapter.  Choose books that have some connection to your family – a place you have visited, a challenge you have faced together, or an activity you have shared – and then enjoy the conversation that naturally results.

why reading aloud to your child is important the importance of reading aloud to children why reading aloud to your children is importantReading aloud builds the background knowledge and enriched vocabulary that are key predictors for success in school.

Hearing books read aloud exposes children to more complex language and more sophisticated vocabulary than we use in everyday conversation. Reading aloud also builds crucial background knowledge to help children better understand what they see, hear, and read at school.  Consider this…it’s much easier for your child to understand a science lesson about the cocoons the class is hatching if they have heard you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar countless times.

Kids who have been read to have better listening skills, deeper concentration, and a longer attention span.

They are well equipped to adjust to the structure and routine of instruction during a typical school day.  And thanks to listening to mom or dad read aloud, this probably doesn’t feel hard, because they associate listening, concentrating, and paying attention with positive experiences!

Children develop critical thinking skills as they listen to stories and notice how characters solve problems.

Sequence, cause and effect, and comparing and contrasting are naturally part of stories and books. Read aloud experiences provide low-key exposure to these concepts long before formal comprehension strategies are taught at school.  A child who has been read to will invariably have excellent comprehension and thinking skills.

Pull out some old favorites, or choose a new book from one of our recommended Book Lists, and start creating the priceless legacy of reading aloud in your family today.  You won’t regret it.