Reader Question: How Do You Teach Kids to Read?

This is one of those issues that worries many homeschoolers who have young children.  I know that your answers will help many readers!  Our question from a reader this week:

I would like to learn about teaching kids to read.  Did you use any special books, methods, or materials?

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. And lots of patience. But mostly, we read aloud to our kids from birth—lots of books, every single day.

  2. Tristan says

    For my oldest we simply learned a letter sound or letter pair sound a week, with a theme, and used Now I’m Reading phonics readers by Nora Gaydos (fun and funny). She is now a happily reading 9yo that can finish a 350 page book in 2-3 days if she wants to.

    Right now I am using Rocket Phonics for my 4 and 5 yo, and will continue to use it for my 1 and 2yo. It is fantaastic, very hands on, lots of games which my 5yo boy really needed when we started. I wrote a review here months ago

    and we are still using it and loving it. Best of all, it is non-consumable, so the large initial cost breaks down so much using it with so many kids (did I mention I’m pregnant with #6?LOL).

  3. says

    With our oldest, we read all the time, and I introduced a letter sound a week. We then moved to a combination of sight words and phonics and more reading. We read to her, I’d have her read a word here and there, then a sentence, then a short page. She could read, but would insist to others that she couldn’t. I think she just couldn’t read the way she wanted to. Then, one day it just clicked and now you can’t pull a book away from her. Remember to let them have a say in what you read together, because the most important aspect of teaching a child to read is encouraging the interest in and motivation to read. Without that, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

  4. says

    Lots and lots of reading, lots and lots of books and “Teach your child to read in 100 lessons!” I don’t love it, it’s hard work and I am just starting it for the fifth time in s47en years… but it works for us so I use it!!

    • says

      I have NO idea how a child learns to read. :) I have a son that has learning disabilities which effects his memory. When he was younger – he was unable to retain the information learned each day. With my second – he had no desire or interest to learn.
      We did use a bit of 100 easy lessons – made mom feel good to “do” something each day, but I didn’t see it helping the boys.
      We LOVE teaching phonics. Spaulding Method, Spell to Write and Read the older versions, the 72 phonograms. I spent the most time learning these phonograms and the spelling rules, then made it a part of my vocabulary, when they asked how to spell something, or when watching game shows or reading road signs.
      Now I have a 12 year old and a 9 year old. They both just sort of started reading fluently around age 9. The both went from “non readers” to Readers. Like a switch went off.
      I read to them. With the eldest we did just about every curriculum you can think of through tears and agony.
      Both of them started reading on their own, when they needed to to play online games or read a billboard or such.
      Love em. Read to them. Give them some tools to learn to read. And Relax. :)

  5. says

    My oldest just knew how to read one day before he started school. My younger two had to be taught. I recommend All About Spelling – it is a phonics program that not only teaches great spelling skills, but they’ll be reading in no time.

  6. Pamela O. says

    I taught 1st grade for 7 years and now plan on homeschooling and now am trying to find a program for my family too. I do know the most important thing to do is read, read, read and read some more to your child from day one to build a great foundation! Learning the letter sounds in fun ways, with games and such is great to do. It’s also nice to have a formal way to assess them and check their progress. I read The Well-Trained Mind and plan on using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. Of course, I’m just beginning the more formal part of it and I will have to see how it goes. I will look at the other recommendations as well.

  7. says

    I have used 100 Easy Lessons. My favorite is using the Bule-Backed Speller and having them read from the lists. My now 11 yo som taught himself at 4 (still haven’t figured that one out) and my 4 (almost 5) yo daughter just recently began reading (despite my attempts to make her wait til fall). My 9 yo son didn’t start reading til he was about 7, but now he reads well and has great comprehension. We do read out loud a lot. We have used phonics workbooks, but not a lot.

  8. Maria says

    For our oldest, I just read to her a LOT, and I used a couple of workbooks purchased from Wal-Mart that were a read with your child type thing with flash cards and stuff, as well as audio tapes called See-Hear-Say. With our other two, I have just used reading and Progressive Phonics, which is free to download and print:

  9. says

    Read, read, and read to your kids as much as possible from their earliest moments. For more formal learning we have been using Rocket Phonics and are very happy with it.

  10. says

    Reading…ugghhh…not my favorite subject to teach. My husband and I used every program I could get my hands on to teach my boys. My husband really thought that I was doing something terribly wrong with my boys when my youngest child, my daughter magically began reading one day with no phonics instruction…directed at her that is. She’d been listening intently as I taught the boys day in and day out. My boys both have some vision problems and one is dyslexic so it took awhile for me to figure out why reading was so incredibly difficult. The best advice I can give like many before me is to read, read, read to your child. I still read to my kids on a daily basis and they are now in high school. Even though my boys struggled terribly, they all love to read now and I attribute that to the fact that I spent so much time reading incredible books to them from many different genres and my husband and I modeled our own love of reading to them. Good luck!

  11. says

    This is a good question. My daughter can read some words, but is not able to read full books yet. She just turned 6. I purchased Rocket Phonics when she was 4 and have tried to use it with her 3 different times now. We both quickly get bored with it though.

    One problem I have is that I was never taught phonics. We learned by sight words. It’s actually hard for me to try to teach her phonics, LOL! After looking at several different things, we’ve stuck to just reading, reading and reading! Slowly, but surely she is reading more every day.

  12. says

    Learning to read is a mystery, but an exciting one! Both of my children learned to read using Hooked on Phonics. The Kindergarten kit comes with cards to help with letter recognition and pronunciation. It comes with a book that you help the child through, and then throughout the book (once they have letters and a few blends down) there are readers that include the letters they have learned to read. It also comes with a CD where the narrator prompts the child to repeat her words and sounds to a catchy rhythm. Neither of my children liked the CD, so we ditched it pretty quickly.

    Prior to HOP we read daily to them, printed worksheets off the web to help with letter recognition, and then gradually introduced reading. From there, we took them to Bob Jones Reading Curriculum.

    I hope your teaching experience is a wonderful one, and may you all enjoy this process of learning to read. I pray it goes smoothly for you! : )

  13. says

    We read all of the time and have lots of books at their disposal. With my oldest, we were enrolled in Calvert School for kindergarten, so she learned to read using their curriculum. My second daughter just suddenly knew how to read one day. It took a couple of weeks before I was convinced that she hadn’t just memorized a bunch of her books. My three year old is just starting to have an interest in letters and their sounds. I haven’t really decided how I will approach teaching her to read yet.

  14. says

    We use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with our 1st grader along with flash cards, Explode the Code A,B&C and Bob Books. I have started teaching next years Kinder using the same method and its going well. Blessings, Kyle

  15. Krystal says

    What you choose to use will depend a lot on how your child learns best (and what you can afford!).

    The best thing we did is invest in LeapFrog Letter Factory videos. After watching it a few times, my kids have all learned their letters and letter sounds by the age of two.

    We taught our oldest using Sonlight’s Language Arts K. They use a series of books similar to Bob books, and while I thought it was okay, I had to skip the first half of the program because she already knew the sounds. I remember wondering why I hadn’t just used the Bob books I had. I was so frustrated because for three years she knew her letter sounds and could figure out how to spell c-v-c words, but she couldn’t read. Someone during that time told me that learning to blend sounds into words is a developmental thing–that I just had to be patient and wait for her brain to get it. I clung to those words like a lifeline during those years while secretly I wondered if I was even fit to teach her anything. Then one day, it did just click. We had been struggling through those little books, and now suddenly she was flying through them!

    With my second we chose Sing, Spell, Read and Write. She’s so bouncy that I felt the extra songs and movement would help. We really like the program, but I learned there that you really can’t skip any of the steps. I was grateful for the little tests, though, because I found out that way that she really wasn’t learning on this one spot. We went over the lessons again, it clicked and we moved on. Learning to read was much more consistent with her than it was with my oldest…no plateaus, and just that one speed bump.

    • Jenny says

      I am going to buy the LeapFrog Letter Factory videos for my 3 and 2 year olds. I am using The Ordinary Parents Guide To Teaching Reading on my 5 year old right now! I love it and she is learning very well using it.

  16. says

    I used (Teach Your Child to Read in)100 Easy Lessons for my now 7 year old we started before age 5 because he was interested) and I loved it. I think it does a great job and keeps it simple. I love the book list at the end. I followed up with Bob Books (started with set 1 about half way through 100 Lessons) and Explode the Code (started with book 4).

    I am about half way through the book again with my current 5 year old he took off at the beginning of the book and now his interest has waned. We go at his pace and read lots of books out loud.

  17. says

    We used Sing, Spell, Read and Write with our boys. My daughter came home from Christian school after kindergarten having already been given a firm base in phonics. From that point, we used the Calvert curriculum for first grade. Since those early beginnings, we continue to read, read, read and work on comprehension, vocabulary, and literary elements.


  18. says

    Oh, I was SO NERVOUS about this exact subject!

    You know how kids teach themselves all kinds of stuff with just a little guidance – like how to walk, talk, and eat? Well, turns out, they also just need a little guidance learning to read – but amazingly, my kids absorb so much on their own, I don’t really feel like I can take much credit.

    Here is what I have done:

    Explode the Code, beginning with books A, B, and C. These books rock for phonics. Also, I have found that the Leapfrog videos have been nothing short of amazing (Letter Factory, Code Word Caper, etc). After we finished ETC book C, we moved into Book 1 and also added All About Spelling, which is an amazing learn-to read, learn-to spell, learn-phonics program.

    Those few things, combined with constant access to alphabet magnet letters on a whiteboard, lots of books of various levels everywhere in the house (and the BOB books specifically), have brought my son along with his reading to a level that just staggers me. Even my three year old daughter knows all her letter sounds and is starting to sound things out – and that’s just by osmosis, since she merely listens when her brother does schoolwork. When he was 4 he didn’t know all his letters and now at 5.5, he is sounding out words that have sounds we haven’t even COVERED yet.

    Truly, it’s amazing. So, don’t stress – just surround them with books, letters, paper, pencils, videos, and throw a little formal phonics instruction their way. You can do it!

  19. Addie says

    I started formally teaching my now 5yo to read right after she turned 3 by using 100 Easy Lessons. We haven’t finished all the lessons yet and she’s nearly reading entire books (easy readers). It’s important to remember that it’s not all about the curriculum you use, but that reading is fun and meaningful to your children. If they see you reading, they will read. If you read to them, they will enjoy those experiences and want to read more. Barbara Curtis has a great book called “Mommy Teach Me to Read” which is an outline of early reading instruction in daily life. Another helpful thing I’ve done is have daily quiet time for 1 hour in which she can read or take a nap. She usually ends up reading. :)

  20. says

    The book that gives me confidence as I teach my 4 year old (she is definitely self-driven to read) is “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” by Jessie Wise and Sarah Buffington (Wise is Susan Wise-Bauer’s mother and co-author of The Well-Trained Mind). She makes it feel so easy…

    We did two letters a week through fall and spring of last year. Now we’re working on short and long vowel-sounds, sight words, and combined sounds using flash cards, Bob Books and whatever else I can find! The key is to let your kid have fun and not push too hard. You want them to love reading, not loathe it!

    • Jenny says

      Tori… I had to learn the hard way not to push so hard when teaching my 5 yr old how to read with “The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading”. I was, at one point, trying to make her learn 2 letters + per day. She and I were both very frustrated. This is a very important point you make. Know the difference between proper high expectations and just improperly pushing your child far too much!!!

  21. Jess says

    We started out with just learning the letters, and while out and about I would randomly point to letters on signs and ask what they were. We made a game out of it! Then we worked on phonics and learning what each letter says. Then again with the game of pointing out letters and asking what they say. Eventually once they got phonics down we started learning how to sound out simple words. I’d point to a word like “Hot” and show them how to phonetically sound it out.

    Another game that I came up with was I printed several household words on small cards, which I lamenated, and then gave them to the kids to sound out. They’d get the card for “bed”, sound it out, and then I’d put tape on the back and they’d run and put that card on the wall by the bed. Such a simple game that they still love!