The best learning to read books and resources that really work!
As a teacher, I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. Learning how to read books was frustrating for many of my students. I often needed to backtrack quite a bit and foster a love for words, rhymes, poems, and songs before they were ready. That was because the journey to becoming a reader starts much earlier in life than most of us realize.
Surprisingly, a large part of it doesn’t even involve books or letters!
Learning to Read Books
What comes first?
When children learn to read, the most significant indicator for literacy is what educators call phonological awareness. Rhyming is one of the seven skills that fall under this umbrella.
Play games that will help your child hear the sounds in words and learn to manipulate them. Silly songs like “Apples and Bananas” are highly effective in helping kids manipulate vowel sounds in words.
This Phonemic Awareness Activities box focuses on awareness of sounds, rhymes, syllables, and more.
Developing Phonological Awareness
“Play into Reading Readiness” is a great book for the seven essential skills in phonological awareness.
During my seven years of teaching struggling readers, I found that mastering phonological awareness skills was essential to becoming a fluent reader! So, make sure to spend ample time practicing these skills. While you play word games, sing, and rhyme, you naturally also want to read together every day. As you read to your child, encourage them to tell you the story in their own words by using the pictures. Even before your child is able to sound out words, you can have her read along with you.
When you read familiar books together, let your children say the words they know. I am sure you have at least a couple of books your children ask you to read over and over. “The Little Blue Truck” was a favorite in our home. We read it hundreds of times, and both of my kids loved saying the animal sounds as we pointed to the words.
Rebus readers fit perfectly with this concept of reading along with a parent. In case you are not familiar with them, check out “Pig Out” from the All Aboard Picture Readers series or “We Love Our School” by Judy Sierra. The sentences in Rebus readers include words and pictures which makes them a wonderful stepping stone on the road to learning to read books. Your child will be able to read along with you by naming the pictures, which helps her understand that the words we speak are connected to the “symbols” in a book.
Beyond reading to and with our children, research tells us that clear and explicit phonics and word study is what helps them learn to read. You want to introduce letter sounds at the same time as the alphabet. I love to keep learning sounds and letters fun and engaging with ABC games and activities.
If you have a busy toddler or preschooler you might enjoy Tad’s Fridge Phonics by Leapfrog as much as I did. It would entertain my kids long enough for me to prepare dinner and they practiced letters and sounds while they played. Definitely a win-win all around.
I love to include all senses into children’s learning whenever possible. The ABC See, Hear, Do book series does a phenomenal job with this! This multi-sensory approach to learning letter sounds and blending first words is a complete game-changer for preschoolers! It makes learning how to read fun and engaging for your beginning reader.
As you can see, so much happens before your child is ready to read books. While you play games, sing, rhyme, and read together make sure you observe your child, wait for her curiosity, and let her take the lead. Your child will show you when she is ready to take the next step.
When my own children were learning to read books, I selected materials that followed systematic phonics and included only a small selection of sight words within the text. Many so-called “phonics readers” actually do not follow this concept well. So my advice is to be picky with the books you use when your child starts to read.
Books to Teach Reading
My son and I enjoyed working through “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” together. This book lays each lesson out well and is very simple to follow. Your child will learn to read books while you complete lessons day by day. It is hands down one of my favorite books to teach reading! A drawback is that the methodology can seem repetitive and not very engaging. Instead of skipping parts of the book, simply take breaks and substitute with other phonetic readers before you continue on.
Both of my children loved the Bob Book Series. We own all sets and read them along with the 100 Easy Lessons book. This “Learn to Read with Bob Books” set even includes an activity book. The twelve books in this first series focus on letter sounds, and building up children’s confidence to say “I read the whole book! “. Consistent vowels and slightly longer stories ensure that your child has mastered the basic phonics with this reading foundation set before they advance. All series include a parent book. Make sure to utilize it to guide you and your child!
Another easy beginner phonics series is “Simple Phonics Books” to allow a child to gain confidence at their own pace”. If your child struggles to connect with the plain illustrations and look of BOB books, then this series is another great option for you. The first set of five books uses simple phonics words consisting of consonant – vowel – consonant and minimal sight words, without punctuation and relates clearly to the witty illustrations. Follow it up with set number 2 which keeps the storylines similar, but introduces punctuation and more complex words.
Remember to observe, let them take the lead, and most of all, whatever you do, keep it fun! Learning to read can be filled with fun, games, laughter, silliness, and lots of bonding time between you and your little ones.
For some great book lists to read aloud to your child, we recommend these:
Best of Books
- Best Books About Farm Animals
- Best Ocean Books for Kids
- Best Read-Aloud Preschool Books
- Best Rhyming Books for Kids
- Best Yoga Books for Kids
- Best Friendship Books for Kids
Books for Social/Emotional Growth
- Powerful Preschool Books that Celebrate and Accept Differences
- Books on Kindness
- Books that Teach Gratitude and Thankfulness for Kids