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How to Teach Your Child to Read Parenting Recipe

By teaching your children to read, you are giving them the tools for self-education. Reading to and with your kids is one of the most satisfying activities to share with them. Through literature, you can explore the world together and give your child the confidence to excel in school. There are many different ways and methods to teach reading and what works best all depends on your particular kid and family situation. What worked in my house is what I call the "Tsunami" approach. Even before birth, I flooded my kids with words. The best way to get my oldest to move in my belly was for my husband to read Dr. Seuss. It never failed. And you should have seen the look of recognition on her face the first time we read it to her after she was born!


Below are the steps in my reading "recipe". As with everything with kids, just keep telling yourself that your kids will be reading by college. (The kids will be potty trained by college. The kids will be walking and talking by college. I used to have to repeat this to myself so I wouldn't feel the pressure of parenting.) It doesn't really matter exactly when kids master reading. The journey to figuring out words on the page is exciting so just enjoy the ride!



  1. Read How To Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman even if your child is no longer a baby. You don't have to follow his methods exactly, but it will really change how you look at your children and what you do with them.

  2. Begin to read to your child as early as possible. Children quickly form preferences for certain books so buy a bunch and see what they like. Just because they don't like a book one day doesn't mean they won't like it another day. Children love repetition. When I moved to longer books, sometimes I would just read the first couple of pages repeatedly over a few days and then add a page every time I read it.

  3. Surround your child with the written word. I took Maria Montessori's suggestion and went around labeling many of the things in our house like faucet, door, oven, hot, cold, etc. I first made very large hand written cards and later I used a Brother PTouch Labeler with 1.5 inch tape and letters in bold black.

  4. Surround your child with the spoken word. Try to answer their questions as if you are talking to an adult. Use complex language, pausing to define words whenever needed. Start having your kids listen to audio books very early. Leo the Lightning Bug is a good one to begin with. Follow that up with all the different Jim Weiss recordings. When you are done with Jim Weiss, the kids will be ready for Harry Potter.

  5. Use word flashcards. I started using word flashcards with my kids very early. I used the 1000 most common English words by frequency. It really is a doable task. The first 25 words on the list make up a third of all printed material. The first 100 words make up half of all printed material. The first 300 make up 65 percent of all written material. By teaching them 100 words, they can read half of everything!  Follow the general instructions in the Doman book of showing each group of 10 words 15 times. The words need to be written in big bold letters. As they get more words, they will not have to see them so many times. I used to play games with the cards. DO NOT TEST THEM. Kids know when they are being tested, even the little ones, and this will turn them off. Best to do each set 3 times a day for 5 days because intensity does matter.

  6. Read, read, read to them. When I was a surgical resident pregnant with my second child and working over 100 hours/week, all I had the energy to do when I got home was to lie in bed and read to my 18 month old daughter. We would pile up 15 or 20 books and she would hand me one after another. I was exhausted but when I look back, these were some of the best moments of my life. Favorites at that time (I can still recite them from memory) include Goodnight Moon, Moo Baa La La La, The Big Red Barn, Go Dog Go, and We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

  7. When you are too tired to read, have your children watch DVDs with books being read by narrarators. This is a good use of technology! While children are uniquely attuned to absorbing information from real live humans, sometimes parents need a break. Start with the Scholastic Storybook Treasures DVDs which is a collection of 100 storybook classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey and Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

  8. Try the series we import from England called The New Way Readers published by Nelson Thornes. Friends who have used these books describe the series as magic because of how quickly the kids begin to read. New Way offers a wide range of stories from contemporary stories with the same set of characters to familiar classics.. The stories are funny and engaging and the books are very small and easy for kids to hold. My children enjoyed them immensely and they continue to go back from time to time to revisit them. The series is grouped by ability level (the color of the book indicates level and there are eight levels). If you follow the series from start to finish, it provides a complete language program. The progression is gradual, creating a ramp which children can easily walk up. By the time they are finished, they can read almost any chapter book at the fourth grade level. I would recommend ordering the books one level (color) at a time to make sure they work for you and your child. If your child is just learning to read, plan on spending a long time with the whites, the pinks, and the reds. After that, things move pretty rapidly. When the kids finish the last level, they are at a fourth grade reading level and are ready to read the simpler chapter books like The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne. Children are usually enthralled by the New Way books and they learn to read quickly. If you combine these books with the flashcards, their reading ability will progress even faster.

  9. If you are feeling really energetic, take some of their favorite books and make books out of them that separate the picture from the words. I did this with books like The Eye Book by Dr. Seuss. You will need two copies of the book you are using.  Cut out the pictures and paste them on a new piece of paper. Type the words using a program like Microsoft Word on separate paper.  Put the books back together using a thin binder or a Lion Fine-N-View Presentation Book.  When you read the book to your children, they will look at the pictures but when you turn to a page with the words alone, they will look at the words.  This is time consuming but you might only have to make around 10 books before they are reading them on their own.  Make sure to use the biggest font size that you can and use bold fonts as well.

  10. Even when they are little, make sure to read books from all different genres. Fiction is not enough! There is a very different kind of literacy required to digest and process factual information. Biographies like the Who Was.....? Series published by Grosset and Dunlap, and The True Book Series of science books published by Children's Press are a good place to start.

  11. Make books accessible by leaving books lying everywhere. I used plastic bins on the floor in every room. Kids have a hard time pulling down books from shelves but they will pick up the books if they are located within arm's reach. We have books in the car, in the bathroom, by their beds, on the living room table, in the kitchen, and in every other room of the house.


After your child is reading, move on to the "How To Grow Your Child's Love of Reading Parenting Recipe" for more suggestions.

How To Teach Your Baby To Read
How To Teach Your Baby To Read Program
How To Teach Your Baby To Read DVD
New Way Early Readers: Level 1 (White, 24 Books)
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New Way Early Readers: Level 5 (Blue, 13 Books)
New Way Early Readers: Level 6 (Yellow, 9 Books)
New Way Early Readers: Level 7 (Violet, 9 Books)
New Way Early Readers: Level 8 (Orange, 9 Books)
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