At-Home Reading Activities for

by Melissa Taylor

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Your child’s potty trained, sleeps through the night, and can catch a ball. But now you’re worried about the next big thing to teach them: learning to read. You wonder, is it time? And, what are you supposed to do anyway? These sorts of things require professionals, training, expertise … right?

Well, yes and no.

Consider this your five-minute cram session for reading activities you can do at home with your 5-year-old to help them become a reader. (That you can reread anytime. With no test at the end.)

When Is My Child Ready to Read?

No matter what your neighbors say (you know, the ones with the 4-year-old genius), your child will develop an interest in reading at their own pace — sometime between age five and seven. When this happens, so does the magic. Meaning, when your child is really ready to learn to read, they will. (Unless there is a learning issue.) Pushing your child before they’re ready won’t work and may actually backfire, resulting in a child who resists reading with all their might. (Among other consequences.)

What Should I Do To Help My Child Be Ready to Read?

Reading is the product of decoding and comprehending printed language (Gough et al., 1981). It’s complex, so there are a lot of activities you can do with your child to help them become a reader.

  • Read to your child every day.
    • When you read, show your child how you “track” the words on the page by using your finger to point to each word left to right that you read.
    • Read a variety of types of books including nonfiction, fiction, comics, and poetry. Let your child pick the books since choice makes everything more interesting to kids.
    • Before you read, look at the cover, title, and pictures to help you make a prediction of what the book might be about.
  • Talk about what you read including the parts of the story, new words, and connections to the book:
    • “What part or character did you like the best or the least?”
    • “What do you think will happen next?”
    • “Does the part you just read  connect to anything in your own life or anything that you’ve read before?”
    • “Do you know anything already about this topic?”
    • “Can you get a movie in your head while you listen to this story?”
  • Have your child pretend-read the story to you using the pictures for help.
  • Act out the story. Or, if it’s a nonfiction book, use the information and vocabulary in a pretend play scenario.
    • “Let’s play fireman!”
  • Practice identifying and writing both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Connect letters with letter sounds.
    • Using favorite toys, talk about what they are (“doll”) and what letter and sound the word starts with (“Doll starts with d which makes the sound /d/.). Practice this throughout the day with food, furniture, clothes … anything. (Add ending sounds once beginning sounds seem solid.)
    • Sing Dr. Jean’s “Action Alphabet” while reading the accompanying book.
    • Play with Leap Frog’s Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set.
    • Play “I Spy” with letter sounds. “I spy something blue that starts with an /m/ sound.”
    • When reading picture books, practice noticing beginning and ending letters and sounds. Try for one or two per book. Don’t stop so much that it interferes with the story.
  • Become rhyming experts.

Your Child’s Ready to Read. Now What?

  • Keep reading to your child every day.
  • Keep working on letters, letter sounds, and rhyming. (See above activities.)
  • Begin to learn the sight words for kindergarten.
    • Sight words are words your child should know at a glance. Download a printable list of the first 100 Fry Sight Words.
    • Work on learning one sight word at a time. Show your child the word and say it. Have your child repeat it, write it, color it, paint it, look for it in a book, stamp it, and spell it with magnetic letters. Each new word learned can go into a “don’t forget” flashcard pile for review and up on a “I-know-these” sight word wall in your house.
  • Start with the easiest of easy books called “Emergent Readers.” Now your child reads to YOU!
  • Track the words.
    • Encourage your child to use his finger to point to each word he reads. For variety and extra fun, try using other pointers — make your own, or buy alien finger pointers, or magic wand pointers.

Does this seem like a lot? It is, I know it. But, think of how much your child will benefit from your time and patience. And before you know it, he’ll be a great reader and you’ll be teaching him how to drive a car.