You CAN Teach Your Preschooler to Read

Do you have a pre-schooler who is begging you to teach them how to read? If you want to guide your young child through the rewarding process of learning to read, here are some steps you can take to make the transition smooth.

Readiness - Teach your child all of the letters of the alphabet. They should recognize both capital and lowercase versions of each letter. As you teach the letters, teach the corresponding short-vowel sounds. For example, show your child the capital and lowercase versions of the letter 'e.' Make sure you let them know that the 'e' says the 'eh' sound. Don't worry about the long-vowel sounds yet; they will come later.

Blending - When your child has mastered the letters as well as their sounds, you can work on blending skills. This is where your child will look at a word, such as 'cat,' and use the sounds he has mastered to blend the letters into a recognizable word. Have him name each letter is first. Then, ask him what sound each letter makes. Now, have him repeat only the sound of each letter. C - A - T. You can use a pen or your fingertip to point to each letter. Have him keep repeating the sounds faster until you hear the sounds blend enough to form the word.

Note on Blending: This may take a great deal of practice. Patience is key here. Also, if your child is not blending after a few days of consistent practice and is showing signs of frustration, you may want to hold off for a few weeks and come back to it. Developmentally, some children blend sooner than others. When my son was four years old, he desperately wanted to learn to read. Blending didn't come right away, so we put it to the side for two months. When we tried after that break, it came quite quickly. For other children, blending skills may not develop until they are five or six-years-old. Blending is a very developmentally conditional skill.

Sight Words - After you have mastered three-letter, short-vowel words, you can try easy readers, such as the Bob Books. To read these books, your child will have to learn some of the basic sight words that are very common to the English language, such as 'the,' 'to,' and 'be.' While you are encouraging your child to sound out most words, you can explain that these words don't 'follow the rules' and that they need to be memorized.

Fluency - As you work on learning other sound combinations, your child will be able to read through some of the early reader books. Get excited for your child. He has worked hard to learn a new skill and the feeling of accomplishment he will have upon reading his first, whole book is well-deserved. Help him to keep practicing. Listen to him as he reads to you. You can then gently correct him as he goes. Your input will encourage him as well as keep bad habits from forming.

Read Alouds - Reading to your children is still the single, most important step you can take for reading readiness. By hearing good language often, the proper use of language is planted firmly in a child's mind. As they learn to read, children draw from that repository to correctly read sentences and take meaning from the text.

Take your reading instruction step-by-step, and be sure to listen to cues from your child. With patience and practice, you can teach your pre-schooler to read.


Heather Shanks is Professor MomĀ®. As a homeschooling mom and former university instructor, Professor Mom knows that teaching your child at home is a challenging job. By combining years of best practice research in academic curriculum, character education, and learning styles, Professor Mom provides moms (and dads:-) with tips, strategies and resources for the homeschooling journey. Visit the website or Professor Mom's blog for more articles, products and other tools for teaching your children.

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