Learning to read is about communicating. Consider setting aside rote memorization drills in favor of playful activities that encourage children to explore the letters, sounds, and words in language. More effective and certainly more fun! Think about teachable moments as part of daily life. Here’s one example, and read on for more: give words a “cool” rating in your household – pop uncommon words into family conversations and briefly explain the meaning in kid-friendly terms.
Playful reading activities
- Play guessing games with the beginning letter of words. “I am looking for something in the store that begins with a b sound.” Or a variation, “I’m looking for something in the kitchen that starts with a c sound and has 2 syllables…Right! Cook-ie”, then clap out the syllables with your hands.
- Make up rhymes to promote sound recognition in similar words. Start a sentence and ask your child to complete it with a rhyming word (“When I swung my bat, I hit a —“). Familiarize your child with sound-alikes and repetition of letters in similar words.
- Substitute one letter sound for another in either the beginning, middle, or end of a word to make a new word (cat to hat, pop to mop). “What other words make the same sound?”
- Practice forming the letters as your child connects them to sounds. This helps to reinforce phonics concepts in the brain. Play dough, wiki sticks, or pipe cleaners can also be used as alternatives to handwriting exercises.
“Research has demonstrated a correlation between
letter-naming and letter-writing fluency,
and a relationship between
letter-naming fluency and successful reading development.”
Letter and words
- Play the alphabet game. Ask kids to say a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet. Add challenge by limiting to a specific category (nature, food, toys etc.)
- Invent new animals. Combine words to create a new animal (e.g., a zebra + a lamb = zamb). Fuel the amusement by urging kids to draw their zany creation!
- Play Hangman. Remember this classic to boost vocabulary and spelling practice?
- Celebrate accomplishment by starting a word “bank” as your child learns new ones or selects favorites. Collect hand-written or cut-from-a-magazine words in a child-decorated jar or other fun container.
- Using words from your child’s word bank, play charades (act out each syllable of a word so others can guess what it is), or make up a story, poem, or write a letter to a friend or family member.
- Act out a story after reading the book together (let your child take the lead!)
- Write your own Mad Libs stories.
Help kids discover the enjoyment of language, and reading will follow. Continue this playful approach as your child learns to read. How about a reading tent or tepee? Any room in the house can become a reading zone built from sheets, blankets, pillows, or even an outdoor tent brought indoors (without the stakes!) Offer a headlamp for extra amusement. And fill that special reading space with plenty of delightful Beginning Readers!
Galinsky, Ellen. (2010). Skill Three: Communicating In Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs (pp. 102-156). 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins.
MacKenzie, Brooke. (2019, July 2). How to Teach Handwriting – and Why It Matters. Edutopia [website]
Palmer, Iva-Marie. (2019, February 1). Fun Word Games to Keep Your Kids Reading This Summer. Read Brightly [website]
Taylor, Melissa. (2019, April 11). Word Collection Jars. Imagination Soup [website]
Taylor, Melissa. (2019, January 29). Word Play Kids Love. Imagination Soup [website]
Photo credit: Terry Lorant Photography/CA State Library LSTA grant