How to Teach Your Toddler to Read: Guide and Resources

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Discovering the best ways on how to teach your toddler to read can be difficult.

Although there are dozens of different methods that one parent or another says they swear by, it can be hard to discern what will make the most sense for your child.

It’s okay to try different methods, but the best way to teach reading is to use proven tips and methods that are efficient.

Time is precious with your little ones, so using a proven system like the Reading Head Start Program is one great way to improve their reading skills.

In addition to covering why that system works so well, let’s talk about some great tips for teaching your toddler to read the best way possible.

How to Teach Your Toddler to Read: The Essential Tips

Here are some of the best tips on how you can teach your toddler to read without pressuring them and making them feel anxious:

1. Create a Singing Habit

Most parents know that toddlers love to sing and dance along with tunes, and they’ll often request the same one repeatedly.

You can use this to your advantage when you want to help them learn to read.

The basic alphabet song isn’t going to have a massive benefit for your child, but you can use many other songs and rhymes to work on reading skills.

Specifically, songs like “A Is for Apple” in which you work through the alphabet and name a word that starts with each letter can be a great choice.

You can adapt these songs each day along with a different theme that is interesting to your child. One week you might sing about foods, then in another week, you might sing about their favorite TV shows.

By working through each letter in relation to specific themes, you will help your child make associations about what letters are used in which words, and that will help them start to read or become better readers.

2. Set Up Letter Magnets

Do you love to spend time with your child in the kitchen while you are cooking or simply hanging out as a family?

Setting up letter magnets on the refrigerator that you can play with together or they can play with on their own is a great way to incorporate reading lessons into daily life.

This activity is a great way to focus on vowel sounds in particular. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pull the most common middle vowels to one side.
  2. Ask your child to spell a simple consonant-vowel-consonant word, such as the word bat.
  3. As they are trying to choose the vowel, help them by sounding out each vowel until they find the one that matches.

Doing this activity with a variety of words will help your child understand vowels more quickly and improve their overall reading skills.

The rules of letters and how they work together isn’t incredibly important at this stage.

The key is for them to become comfortable replicating the sounds that letter makes and how they can be combined to make “bigger sounds” like words.

Over time, the rules of grammar and how letters work together can be taught with these magnets, but that shouldn’t be the immediate concern.

3. Create a Text-Rich Environment

As your child learns to read, they will benefit from having as many opportunities as possible to practice reading.

By filling your at-home spaces with prints, children will have the chance to see more words, letters, and sounds around them.

Seeing these words expands their knowledge and recognition of them even if they will not immediately be able to read them just by seeing the words multiple times.

When the texts are relevant, point out words and sounds to your child. As they start to learn, point out a single letter and ask, “What sound is this letter?

From there, you can expand the questions that you ask, such as:

  • What word rhymes with this word?”
  • “What other word starts with that sound?”
  • “Do you recognize any of these other letters?”

There are many different questions that you can ask your child based on their current level.

Regularly asking questions based on the text that surrounds your child every day can help improve their reading skills.

how to teach your toddler to read

4. Read Engaged, Read Together

Reading together is a common tip given to parents who want to help their toddlers learn to read.

However, the way that you read together will have a big effect on how well that time improves their reading skills. Practicing engaged reading time can make a big difference.

To do this, have your child sit on your lap or very close to you, and choose a book with text that they can easily follow along with while you’re reading.

As you read aloud, use your fingertip to trace along with where you are reading.

It will help your child develop several different parts of their reading ability, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Each of these skills will develop organically as they watch and listen to your reading, and they will begin to be able to recognize the words themselves.

A big plus of reading this way is that it will also help to create positive connotations of reading for your child.

5. Add Some Technology

While relying on physical books, magnets, and tools is a great option when you’re working with toddlers, there are benefits to incorporating technology into your learning sessions.

There are dozens of apps specifically targeted to help children learn to read, and you can use some of them weekly to supplement the other learning that you are doing.

When technology into your child’s routine, remember that you should be limiting the amount of screen time to less than one hour daily until your child is over five years old.

It is also best to avoid screens altogether until your child is over two years old.

Remember that technology is a bonus tool that you can add to your kit on how to teach your toddler to read, but do not rely 100% on it.

Keep learning to read together for the best results.

6. Try Rhyming Games

Once your toddler has a grasp on letters and some basic words that they can say aloud with you, start adding rhyming games to what you enjoy together.

Rhyming games are great for improving overall literacy skills. You can do this by asking questions aloud to your child about rhyming, or you can choose a specific rhyming game that features their favorite things.

Either way, adding rhyming as a skill helps them get a complete grasp of sounds, letters, and similarities between words.

7. Consider the “Reading Head Start” Program

For many parents, having a set system to follow can help their child learn to read more effectively.

Reading Head Start, a program set up to help children as young as 18 months old to start reading, is an option that you can use at any stage.

Students who learn with this program read at the level of children two to four years older than them, which is true even if they can’t even read the alphabet yet.

The program focuses on teaching the children to read based on the letters and sounds first rather than based on sight.

Sight words have long been the standard in English learning, but many have found that focusing on the recognition of letters over sight words is far more effective.

Your child’s entire future can be affected by how early and effectively they learn to read; are you willing to risk that?

8. Go Beyond the Letters

Even before your child can read words on their own, it is important to focus on more than just them parroting letters back to you.

Teaching comprehension from a young age can add context and meaning to words, which could affect how your child reads for the rest of their life.

It’s very simple to start doing this. After you read a sentence in a story aloud to your child, ask them what they think will happen next.

Give them a chance to come up with an idea or two, and then move on with the story.

Stop frequently to ask them what they think will happen next, and give them a chance to explain why they think that will happen if they want to.

This process will show your child how to process, analyze, and contextualize what they are reading in more profound ways than just letters and words, and that will help them become better readers throughout their life.

Reading and Comprehension Skills Development

Whether you choose to try the Reading Head Start program or stick to pulling together your own tips and tricks, teaching your toddler how to read as soon as possible has a positive effect on their life.

Good reading and comprehension skills can have profound effects throughout your child’s life, and they will do better as they move into and through the school system.

Teaching your toddler to read doesn’t need to be difficult. You can use our recommended system and tips to improve their life forever.