How to teach a child to read
Reading is an essential – and enjoyable – life skill. As children develop their reading, they reach certain
milestones. Some children will hit them sooner and some later. Other children may not reach these goals
without extra help.
For parents and carers, there is no right or wrong method to teach a child to read. Whether the child has a
natural aptitude for literacy or they struggle with reading difficulties, you can help foster healthy reading
habits, a joy of reading, and your child’s unique reading abilities, in surprisingly simple ways.
Ready to start a reading journey together? Here are some ideas.
How to teach a child to read
Did you know that one of the most effective ways to help a child read is simply to read aloud to them? Reading
to children is one of the easiest ways to develop a love of reading alongside early literacy skills. Reading to a
young child not only helps develop vocabulary and comprehension, but also boosts self-esteem, strengthens the
parent-child bond, and builds imagination.
Familiarity with words in context is the next step.
Look around your environment and begin to have your child recognize words and text in their everyday life.
You can point out their name on their coat label, the name of their favorite cereal, letters on packets, and
As your preschooler gets older, write out words for them to copy onto paper. Encourage your child to “write”
their own words – early mark making should be encouraged and can take any form; squiggles, lines, and shapes are
all good. Drawing letters with a stick in mud, dirt, sand, or snow is also fantastic fun for young kids.
Talk about favorite stories and start telling stories together. Ask them what they think will happen on the
next page and talk about what could have happened in a different ending. You can even encourage your child
to be the author of their own story – describe a fun day out together and write out the sentences your child
says onto paper. Then, read their story to them and have them draw pictures for it.
Charities and national organizations like the National Literacy Trust in the UK also have online resources and
structured assistance to help families with reading.
The best way for a child to learn to read is when they associate reading with comfort, fun, and excitement.
Prompt but don’t push too hard with these early steps into literacy – you want it to be a pleasure and never a
How to teach a 6-year-old child to read
Many parents think their “job” teaching reading stops when a child starts school. Yet this is a mistake – parents
play a vital role in developing reading skills all through the early school years.
Parents may struggle with the methods schools use to teach children to read. These vary depending on where
you live. In the UK, most schools use phonics to teach word reading. This is all about letter patterns and letter
sounds, building from simple to increasingly complicated words. Tricky words that don’t follow regular
patterns – and there are plenty of these in English! – are learned through practice and familiarity.
Help your six-year-old child read by sharing the books they bring home from school. These will be at the
correct level for them and help develop word and comprehension skills. Talk about what they are reading and
help your child when they get stuck. Encourage them to work out the word using phonics – split the sounds in
the word and then blend them together to form the whole word.
It’s perfectly fine to tell a child a word and then move on. It’s natural for beginners to struggle with words and
it’s more important to be patient and keep the reading session fun and stress-free.
Comprehension is also crucial – encourage your primary school child to stop occasionally and look at the
pictures, talk about what is happening, and discuss what they like or dislike about the story or the characters.
Keep reading to your child even as they pick up the skills to read themselves. This allows your child to enjoy a
more complicated story without having to spend all their brainpower working out the words.
Remember that the timing of a reading session is important. You’ll know what works best for your child – if
they’re too hungry, tired, or distracted they won’t gain from trying to read. Short and fun are best, and you can
stop when your child has had enough. A quick reading session is often better than an exhausting hour-long
stretch which may result in resentment and reading avoidance.
It’s also important to remember that every child has their own reading journey to complete. Some will pick up
reading very quickly and keep striding ahead, others will start off strong then slow their pace; others will take a
while to show their progress. Almost every child will be reading independently by the end of their primary
education – particularly if they are encouraged and supported at home.
Why is reading important for children?
If you’re reading this, you’re living proof of the first reason learning to read is important for children – you can
understand words on a page or screen, which allows you to learn new things and gain information. Reading
opens up the world and provides the ability to function in our society. Without reading, you wouldn’t be able
to cook from a recipe, read the newspaper, understand bills and letters, and do so many more tasks besides.
Reading expands children’s vocabulary and helps them progress with verbal communication. Reading keeps
kids are safer, too – they need to understand warning signs, traffic signals, and be able to read their own name
on a list.
Reading also helps build self-confidence, independence, and self-esteem. Children reading on their own begin
to form their own opinions about the world and independently increase their understanding of how things
work. By being able to make sense of the world they feel safer and more secure.
Imagination, too, is enhanced – along with knowledge and understanding of other cultures, worlds, and lives.
Reading is essential and helps create well-rounded, thoughtful individuals. Teaching reading at an early age
and continuing to provide support as a child grows up is important to foster skilled reading habits.
How to help a child with reading difficulties
Not every child, however, will find reading easy or even enjoyable. Children may be reluctant or unable to read
at the same level as their peers. Reading disorders are when a child has problems with reading words or
understanding the words they read.
Dyslexia is the most well-known reading disorder. Children with dyslexia experience reading difficulties that
can impair their overall education. A child with reading difficulties may struggle sounding out words as they
are unsure how letters match sounds. Fluency and reading comprehension also suffer.
Reading disorders are not commonly diagnosed until around the age of five and older. Up until this point, it is
not easy to tell if a child’s reading skills are different from the average. Getting a diagnosis or assessment of a
reading disorder or difficulty can be beneficial to help tailor support specifically to the child. Seek support
sooner rather than later if you see your child struggling significantly with reading.
Different strategies for learning to read benefit children with diverse needs. For example, the Orton Gillingham
approach is a multi-sensory set of techniques that can help children with dyslexia. Audiobooks can help when
a child can read along with the words.
Help a struggling reader by choosing books at their level – too hard, and they will quickly become discouraged.
Check with your child’s teacher if you are unsure. It is also vital to pick interesting books that will grab your
child’s interest. Remember that non-fiction is just as good as fiction when learning to read, and many young
readers find facts and information about their favorite subjects more interesting than stories.
Variety, support, and enjoyment are vital when a child is learning to read. By emphasizing these key factors,
teaching a child to read will be rewarding and fun.