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How to Teach Your Child to Read at Home: 0-2 Years

Updated on December 5, 2012

Learn to Read Games Prepare for Literacy

Do you want your child to read well and love it? Maybe you struggled to learn to read and write. Maybe you started late and avoided it often, for who doesn’t prefer to do what comes easily and put off what is hard? But when it comes to our children we all want the young ones to have a better chance. With the right support from home, children can learn to read and write early, easily and joyfully. 

Reading skill is one of the strongest indicators of academic success.

Researchers at the University of Oregon Roland Good, Deborah Simmons and Sylvia Smith, point out in a 1998 paper published in Educational and Child Psychology that good early readers get stronger quickly, while weak early readers improve slowly. Consequently, the slower reading trajectory affects reading comprehension, reading speed, vocabulary development, exposure to content and information, and ultimately self-esteem (Good et al., 1998, 58). Reading is a complex cognitive task that requires practice, and support at home.

Many Parents Are Teaching Children How to Read

Parents are the child’s best ally in learning language and literacy skills that will foster a love of reading and writing to support their confidence and success in school and in life. Teach them to read as you teach them to talk, to wash their hands, to brush their teeth, and to mind their manners. Here are some fun literacy activities to include in your play with your child 3 months to 3 years old.

At this age children are absorbing their culture’s language(s). Speak to them in both languages, if you speak more than one. They are acquiring the sounds of the languages, learning vocabulary and using language to interact with the people around them. Although they are not ready to read yet, they are developing the foundation language skills they will build on later when they do start to read. They may start to enjoy sitting in your lap looking and pictures and talking about them, and listening while you read durable, realistic, short books. They are learning to associate pictures with real life, to take care of books, to turn pages from right to left in English.

Most of the fun language activities to do with your child at this stage are talking activities and listening games. Writing and reading are literary equivalents of speaking and listening. Spend time every day with your child doing these learn to read activities.

Parent Reading with Baby

Looking at books and talking about the pictures with your baby is one of the best learn to read activities.
Looking at books and talking about the pictures with your baby is one of the best learn to read activities. | Source

Phonics LIstening Activities and Fun Learn to Read Games to Do Every Day with Your Child

1. Play language games. Talk to your child, speak in sentences, let her hear real language, and when she babbles and coos, say her sounds back to her.

2. Sing songs. Rhythm, stress, melody and silence are a big part of spoken language as well as music. Songs tell stories, introduce vocabulary, and capture the child's imagination.

3. Make rhymes together. Play rhyming games like I Spy--"I Spy with my little eye something that rhymes with "boot." Make up rhyming couplets, limericks, and silly poems, especially about the child and about what is going on in the moment--
“I wonder who
Took off his shoe.
I wonder how
We’ll find it now.” Have fun.

4. Show pictures and talk about what she sees in the pictures. Ask questions--What is (child’s name) doing? Is she walking? What colour are her shoes? Is she wearing red shoes? Show me her red shoes. Who helped her tie her shoe laces this morning? Did Mommy help her tie her shoe laces, or did Grampa? Where are they going? With the child, make up your own story about the pictures.

5. Reading materials don’t need to be “real books.” Use the flyers from the newspaper, or the photograph album of people the child knows, or cut and paste your own pictures together into “little books.”

6. Play alliteration games with beginning sounds in words, for example “blue bugs bit the banana.” Or play guessing games like, "I am thinking of something in the kitchen that starts with the sound 'f'." " 'f' for "fork," 'f' for "fondu pot”. As your child learns, make it harder by working with sounds at the end of words and in the middle of words. Play around with the child’s contributions, and be fearlessly silly. Laugh a lot.

7. Develop vocabulary with pictures and real items. Work with small groups of 3 or 4 items at first; for example put a hammer, a fork and a toothbrush on the mat or table in front of you. Ask the child, “Show me the hammer/fork/toothbrush.” Repeat often according to the child’s interest. From time to time hide the item or picture, and ask, “Where’s the hammer?” Later, once the child knows the vocabulary, ask, “What’s this?” Give the child real words for things, say them clearly, repeat them and let the child learn them. Continue to develop your own vocabulary by looking new words up in the dictionary, and using them. Let your child see you learning new words and bringing them into your active vocabulary.

Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet (Sports Alphabet)
Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet (Sports Alphabet)

This alphabet book gives the short vowel sounds and is mostly phonic.

I Spy Little Book
I Spy Little Book

Children get engrossed in the details of the pictures.


Teaching Children How to Read with Early Books They Love

8. Get board books from the library and sit with your child on your lap as you read and talk about the pictures. Let the child choose the book--offer him two, asking “Which book do you want to read first?”

9. Ask friends and grandparents to give gifts of books to the child, or gift certificates so you can choose the books yourself. One of the best ways to raise children who love to read is to surround them a wide variety of books.

Teaching a Child to Read Supports Academic Success

Children learn what they live. If they see readers in their family, they will want to read. If your child is fortunate to have more than one language in your home, do the literacy activities in both or all languages. Above all, have fun. You may have developed literacy late in life and had to work hard. With your help, your child can learn to read early, effortlessly, and with joy.


Good, Roland H III., Deborah C. Simmons, and Sylvia B. Smith. “Effective academic interventions in the United States: evaluating and enhancing the acquisition of early reading skills.” Educational and Child Psychology (1998), vol. 15 (1) p 58. retrieved on-line (accessed December 15, 2010)

Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.


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    • Felisa Daskeo profile image

      Felisa Daskeo 4 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Good ideas. I started reading books with my son when he was only 6 months old and it was very effective. But when I left to work overseas when he was 3 years old, there was no follow up anymore. When I came back home after 31/2 years, I had a store business that left me no time to teach my son so he ended up always playing with the computer. He is good and intelligent but without follow up he didn't continue reading books. He's now 22, with a job and I am still happy for him.

      Now, comes my nephew. We started reading books with him when he was one year old. He is now three and he cannot sleep without first reading a book with us. He loves books and he can look at picture books for an hour without getting bored. He can name all the animals. He can tell stories about the pictures even if he cannot yet read.

      And the good thing is that he can relate with two languages; our own language and English as the second language.

      I agree with you Janis Goad, that reading for children should start very early in life.

    • Didge profile image

      Didge 5 years ago from Southern England

      Some very cool ideas Janis Goad!