How to Teach Reading to 4 and 5 Year-olds




About: I've been teaching about 8 years. I love it. Kids are brilliant and fun to work with.

Aliteracy is defined as a lack of the reading habit.  It turns out, many folks that can read, don't want to read.  The lessons that follow helps children find a love of reading.  Creating readers that want to read is a matter of giving kids choices--kids need a wide variety of appropriately leveled books to choose from.  Kid's also need to move along at their own pace.


Step 1: Letter Study

In terms of letter study, kids should be introduced to 2 new letters a week.  The focus of letter study is learning the name and sound that each letter makes.  The best letters to start with are the letters in a child's name.  After that move on to letters that get used a lot--t, s, c, m, a etc...

Write you chosen letters on colorful construction paper.  Then go through the cards with your child.  Talk about the name and sound of each letter.  Try to elicit the name and sound of the letters after a few days.  Each week add two or three letters to your letter cards.

If you're interested in teaching letters look here:

Step 2: Word Study

Word study happen in parallel with letter study.  Kid's can identify words without knowing the names of the letter within a word.  Word study is learning how to utter a written word. 

Cut construction paper into 8.5x5.5inch pieces.  Write the following words on the cards with a marker:  I, my, like, a, see, dad, mom, the, dog, is, go, here, said, to, & are. 

Each week go over the word cards.  Start with one card and then add two new cards each week.  Talk about how to read the card and how to spell the card.  When kids have a difficulty reading a word encourage them to say the sound of the first letter in the word--In kid "language" we say get your mouth read for the word.

Step 3: Reading

The more a kid reads the better their reading skills will be.  That being said, beginning readers don't really read.  To get kids to practice reading teachers use predictable books.  Predictable books have the same basic sentence on each page.  The only change from page to page is one word--this word is usually related to the picture on the page.  For example, in the book below, the basic sentence is "I put in the _______."  This basic sentence is on all the pages of the book.  The only part that changes is the last word.  Kid's can figure out what that word is by looking at the picture.  While reading predictable books, kids are practicing to read.  Eventually, kids begin to recognize different words and internalize reading behavior.

Predictable books can be bought through the internet and cost a dollar each.  Understand that predictable books have levels.  If your child is just starting out, start with beginning level books.  As kids get better at reading move to more complex books.  Look through the titles with you child and choose themes that appeal to them.  Put the books in a basket with your child's name on it, so that your child can read their book when they want.

I usually read the first two pages and then have my students take over.  Kids should read daily.  Also kids should be read to daily. 

Eventually kids will progress to less predictable texts.  These less predictable texts will require a new set of skills that I'll talk about in my next instructable.



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    11 Discussions


    7 weeks ago on Step 3

    The numerous grammatical errors in this article makes me hesitant to put much faith in the quality of instruction. Persons writing something for public perusal should always have their work proofread. At the very least, shoddy workmanship. How can one claim to be an expert in a subject when their own writing proves the opposite?


    2 months ago

    One of the best legacies we can leave to our kids is the love of reading. For us to do that we need to help them learn to read first. There are tons of resource available nowadays for us to do this. Just like this article and other products offered here.
    One such helpful program is
    You can teach your kids reading by spending just 15 minutes a day, check it out.

    Emma Emily

    1 year ago

    Learning to read is a long process, but it doesn't have to be a difficult process. Broken down into intuitive and logical steps, a child as young as two years old can learn to read, and older children can accomplish even more. Click here to for a simple, step-by-step program that can help your child learn to read, and watch a video of a 2 year old child reading.


    1 year ago

    I can recommend trying this: Really helped us a lot to give our children a head start!


    2 years ago

    How do I teach my 4 year old? I am still not sure about this


    2 years ago



    3 years ago

    How do I teach my 4 year old to
    read or identify words? My 4 year old is starting to ask me what random words
    start with. I have known for awhile that it was time to move forward with
    “reading”, but didn’t have a clue how to proceed.

    Ms Mac

    3 years ago on Step 3

    Thanks so much for this break down!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    It is essential for parents to create a healthy learning environment for their kids. it is imperative as it nourish urge of reading and learning in kids at early stagLearning is essential for every human being on earth. I am volunteering my services at a school which is running for poor kids. i feel so satisfied teaching and helping kids read and write.e...


    7 years ago on Step 2

    My daughter is now four and is reading very well. We started with consonant and short vowels. This allowed her to read simple books. We are now moving on to the complicated rules and sounds of long vowels. This system would seem to confuse the child with long vowels early, when it could be put off until they have built up more confidence.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    Good point.

    Folks read using three basic skills:

    • Recognition of meaning of word via the word's shape
    Kids recognize a word by its shape

    • Recognition of the meaning of a word via the sounds the letters make
    Kids recognize a word by looking at the sounds of letters in words

    • Recognition via the context of the sentence the word is embedded in.
    Kids recognize a word by reading the words around it

    Kid's can learn of the above mentioned strategies simultaneously. When we teach kids to recognize words by their shape, we teach them site words. Some whole words are considered "sight words"--words that you don't usually use letter sounds to figure out. The word 'the' is a great example of a site word. The word 'the' starts with the /th/ sound. Beginning readers usually don't have any understanding of how the 'th' spelling makes a sound like /th/. As it turns out, kids can recognize the word 'the' even if they don't have a grasp of the letter sound in it.

    When I show kids the word 'the" I don't have them sound out the first sound. They should simply look at the word 'the' and recognize it by its shape. I would encourage kids to recognize the first sound in site words beginning with single consonants and vowels.