The National Children's Literacy Website is a unique children's literacy initiative and is part of the Soho Center's National Children's Literacy Information Project - a not-for-profit
literacy initiative dedicated to advancing the literacy skills of young children, promoting literacy as an integral factor
in the growth of society, and enhancing literacy in a variety of
home and child care settings. We believe that reading is a fundamental skill needed by all, and we are proud of what we are doing to help children learn to read.


Helping Children Learn to Read

P r e - s c h o o l   T h r o u g h   G r a d e   T h r e e


When children enter school "familiar with reading," they almost always become good readers in the early grades and are far more likely to become better learners throughout their school years and beyond.

But learning to read can be hard for children - especially if they have not been given important daily learning experiences in their first five years.

That's why it's so important for children to have a range of daily, age-appropriate learning experiences in their first five years. If that occurs, learning to read becomes a much easier skill to acquire.  You can help children "naturally" learn to read over time (just as they learn to walk and talk) with daily practice and encouragement.

Key grown-ups in young children's lives - parents and other family members, child care providers, child care and Head Start teachers, and nursery school teachers - need to help children enter school with the necessary skills to learn to read well.  Teachers in  kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and third grade (along with parents and after-school child care providers) can then build on these early skills to help children become successful, proficient readers.

You can help children develop important pre-reading and reading skills, including learning to -

use language in conversation

listen and respond to stories read aloud

recognize and name the letters of the alphabet

listen to the sounds of spoken language

connect sounds to letters to figure out the "code" of reading

read often so that recognizing words becomes easy

learn and use new words

understand what is read

Do you want more specifics?  Here's how you can help your young child -

Read to your children every day,  Spend time talking about stories, pictures, and words.  Read with expression. And choose books your children will enjoy!  Create happy, warm, enjoyable times so children look forward to books and reading with enjoyment and interest.

Share conversations with young children over meal times and  throughout the day and evening. Children learn words more easily when they hear them spoken often.  Introduce new and interesting (and relevant) words at every opportunity.

Be a reader and a writer.  Children learn habits from the people around them.

Teach the letters of the alphabet.  Help children learn to recognize letter names and shapes by talking about them, pointing to them, and encouraging their early attempts to write and draw them.

Help children learn and use new words.

Practice the sounds of language.  Read books with rhymes.  Teach your children rhymes, short poems, and songs.  Play simple word games, "How many words can you make up that sound like the word 'bat'?"

Help children take spoken words apart and put them together.  Provide opportunities for children to practice the sounds that make up words.  Help children separate the sounds in words, listen for beginning and ending sounds, and put separate sounds together.  (Young children can start with the beginning sound of familiar words and understand that the word "cat" begins with a "k" sound, "dog" begins with a "d" sound, etc.  Then children can progress to understand that the word "cat" has a "k" - "a" - "t" sound which, when put together, sounds like and makes up the word "cat".)

Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters whenever you see them and by reading alphabet books - helping children name the letters (upper and lower case) and the sound each letter makes.

As your children begin to read some words, here's how you can help -

Continue to read with your children each and every day.  And continue to make new and interesting books available to children - with multiple opportunities each day for children to look at, read, and enjoy books and story-times.

Continue to systematically teach phonics - how sounds and letters are related.

Give children the opportunity to practice the letter-sound relationships they are learning.  Practice sounds and letters by reading easy books that use words with the letter-sound relationships they are learning. 

Help children write the letter-sound relationships they know by using them in words, sentences, messages, and their own stories.

Show children ways to think about and understand what they are reading. Ask children questions to show them how to think about the meaning of what you and they are reading.

Point out the letter-sound relationships your children are learning (using labels, boxes, newspapers, magazines, and signs).

Listen to your children read words and books.  Be patient and listen as your child practices.  Let your children know you are proud that they are  learning to read.

As your children become more able to read, here's how you can help -

Continue to read with your children each and every day. There are hundreds of "new" books that your children will enjoy - available at bookstores and at your local library.  Continue to provide familiar books and new books to keep reading enjoyable and interesting.

Encourage your children to reread familiar books - both silently (to themselves) and aloud (to you, to their stuffed animals, etc.).  Children need practice in reading comfortably and with expression using books they know.

Build reading accuracy.  As each child reads aloud, gently point out words he or she missed and help him or her to read the words correctly.  If you stop to focus on a word, have a child reread the whole sentence to be sure he or she understands the meaning.

Build reading comprehension.  Talk with children about what they are reading.  Ask about new words.  Talk about what happened in the story.  Ask about the characters, places, and events that took place.  Ask what new information he or she has learned from the book. 

Continue to teach letter-sound relationships for children who need more practice.

Teach the meanings of words, especially words that are important to understanding a book.

Teach ways to learn the meaning of new words.  Teach children how to use dictionaries to learn word meanings, how to use known words and word parts to figure out other words, and how to get clues (context clues) from the rest of the sentence and pictures.

Help children understand what they are reading.  Good readers think as they read and they know whether what they are reading is making sense.  Help children to check their understanding.  When children are having difficulty, show them ways to figure out the meaning of what they are reading.



Adapted and revised by the Soho Center for the NCLI from materials by the Partnership for Reading, a collaborative effort of the
National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the U.S. Department of Education
to make evidence-based reading research available to educators, parents, policy-makers, and others with an interest in
helping all people learn to read well.

Soho Center Copyright 2011