How I’ve Taught Kindergarten Reading


I’ve written a lot about how I haven’t pressed too much formal learning on my five-year-old.  I believe playing, fostering his imagination, and letting him acquire a love of stories and books is the most important part of Kindergarten.

I tried short, formal lessons though, and it worked for a while, but now I’ve stopped.  This is partly because my two-year-old has stopped taking naps and we’re having an early, beautiful spring, but mostly because he was struggling to stayed focused, and I feared he would start to hate reading (math too).  Since he’s above his grade level anyway (his birthday is late August, and he would begin Kindergarten this coming fall, if I were enrolling him in public school), I’m certainly not going to worry about letting him go at his own pace.

To give you an idea of where we’re at, he is a master at the ABCs & phonics.  He can sound out many simple words, though he is often reluctant to do so.  He knows several sight words.  He still struggles when reading early readers, though.  He is good at reading the online books at

This is what I’ve done to get him this far.  Click on the links to learn more:

  • My five-year-old learned the ABCs very early, around 21~22 months.  It was part of our everyday fun.  (Don’t worry if your child didn’t learn the ABCs this fast. My two-year-old still doesn’t know them. He’s a completely different kind of learner.)
  • To be honest, I don’t remember how he learned the phonics.  I think he taught himself!
  • We worked through Lesson 70 of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  (That’s the longest and most formal of all the reading lessons I’ve done with him.)
  • Sometimes we play the sight word game that I made up.
  • He has watched Meet the Sight Words 1 from Preschool Prep Company several times.  (This was a gift, and he likes it.  I haven’t bought the others in the series though.)  If you have an auditory/visual learner like my son, these may be worth looking into.
  • I’ve sat with him and had him try to read early readers.  We’ve got many books, but I especially like the We Both Read books.  Since he struggles to focus, I only make him read 2~3 pages at a time.
  • We used Progressive Phonics for a while, and I really like it, but we’ve gotten out of the habit. (PP is FREE!) (Thanks to For Love of Education for telling me about PP!)
  • Recently I went back to In the past I’ve let him play with Starfall on his own, but now I sit with him and do one line at a time (if you go to this page, you’ll see how each line is numbered.)  He can do the quizzes and read the books well, and I think it’s a good review/practice for him.  As we have time, I’ll keep doing this.  He likes it as long as I don’t push him too hard. (SF is FREE, but they’ve added more to it that is accessible via subscription, but it’s reasonably priced.  I’ve considered signing up for it, and I may in the future, since my son likes the site.)

None of this includes the exposure he gets to reading and phonics through other means, such as books I read to him, computer/iPod games, and television shows he watches.  Though he hasn’t asked to play on the computer/iPod in a long time, he does love educational television shows.  Right now he’s on a Super Why! kick, which has to be one of the best shows that teaches reading.  Another good one in regards to sounding out and building words is Word World.  He has watched that quite a bit.

As you can see, if you want a solid, how-to teach my child to read, I’m not the blogger you should read.  I have tried different things because 1) I had them or I could afford them, and 2) my son liked them.  I watch my son closely to see what he likes and doesn’t like, and I ask him too.

For now, this works for me, although I have great respect for those who need a curriculum plan laid out for them.  I completely understand how we need that sometimes, and we each have different personalities, organizational and learning styles.  As we teach our children, we have to find what works best for them and us.  Otherwise, we’ll get over-anxious, frustrated, and that will not help the learning process for sure!

What are your favorite resources for beginning reading?

Stay tuned!  Next week I’m writing a column about math!

19 thoughts on “How I’ve Taught Kindergarten Reading

  1. This is awesome. Your 5 year old sounds very much like my 5 year old. She learned her ABCs and phonic pretty early but was very reluctant to use them. We discovered that she thought that is she read that we would no longer read to her. She said she did not want story time to end. How cute! LOL

    We are huge Super Why fans especially since we cancelled cable and watch only on Netflix (no annoying commercials). As much as I tote that reading programs are fun, we are very lax now a days and that probably works better for us!

    Glad to hear that you liked PP.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Kristina! I have heard that some kids might think that so I keep telling my son that once he learns to read we can both read to each other. I didn’t want him to think I’d stop reading to him! Come to think of it, I should probably remind him of that!

      We have been using Apple TV for a long time now, and ever since they added Netflix, we have been very happy campers! No commercials is a must for me! Love this new technology and what it can add to education at home.

      I do love PP. Now that the little one is not napping, it’s hard to find time for stuff like that!


  2. My younger two had fun playing with starfall for a few months. Love netflix! We used to watch super why and word world over the air- thanks for the reminder. I’m not sure it will draw them in the same way the superhero shows do, but its worth a try.

    You may find (I have) that the younger child grows up faster in terms of tastes, toys, etc., because he wants to be like his big brother. For us, with more than 5 years between the oldest and the youngest, the youngest has missed out on some of the “little kid” interests (such as PBS shows, winne the pooh, etc). On the other hand, he knows a lot about dinosaurs, and is learning to read his computer games.


    1. Thank you for the comment, Cheryl. There is a lot my younger son is missing too, although my older son does not mind watching his old Mickey Mouse Clubhouse shows over again! I think in general he is just missing the one-on-one I had with my older son and the concentrated yet playful effort of learning his letters and numbers, etc. However, I also see how he has also gained so much by being the younger sibling. One example is just how we interact with other people much more than we did when it was just my younger son and I didn’t feel the need for play dates yet. So there’s give and take, I guess! And oh yes, I think he roars like a dinosaur much louder than my eldest ever did! lol 🙂


  3. Sorry if this is super long!

    My daughter learned her alphabet really early – like 18 months – even though she couldn’t say a lot of words. I give a lot of credit to an alphabet puzzle we had that she played with all the time. Since the letters are 3D, my idea at the time was that it would be great to increase her understanding of them by touching the shapes of them. I don’t know if that’s what did it, but I didn’t argue with the results. (You can see a video of her playing with the letters here, if you’re interested:

    Other than that, we have not used any curriculum to teach her to read, but she has been reading since she was 3. I have Melissa & Doug magnetic letters that I would put a “word of the day” on the fridge, mainly 3-letter words at first. I still remember sitting on the floor with her the day that she understood that there’s usually a vowel sound in the middle and that you connect the two letters on the ends with that sound in the middle. From there, her reading took off like lightning.

    We have talked about what words mean, how they’re spelled, why they’re spelled different ways, etc., from the beginning. I never, ever force the conversation and often just mention these things in passing and if she continues the conversation then I know I’ve hit on something interesting for her. Now at not quite 6.5yo, she will ask what a word means if she doesn’t know. She doesn’t want to be left out of the conversation.

    She has never been afraid that we wouldn’t read to her if she read for herself. Again, I don’t know exactly why, except that we’ve never let her watch DVDs in the car unless it was a long trip, but on the short trips I have always handed her a book. Now it’s expected and she looks forward to it. I’ll often give her new to her books in the car, like a nice surprise. I’ll make sure I have a couple – an old favorite, something she hasn’t read in a long while, something below her level, something above it, something right on – so she can pick what she’s in the mood for that day.

    Of course she still loves to be read to and we do a lot of that too, most often a story before bed and one (or 10, depending on her desire) during the day. And we put her to bed a little bit early knowing that she will read for 1-2 hours every night with her book light. I also almost never refuse to buy her a book she wants, even if I know it’s way above or below her level (unless it has inappropriate subjects in it, but so far that hasn’t been an issue). Her favorite books to read right now are from the Horrible Science series.

    One game we used to like to play is sort of a word jumble. I got 2 packages of cardstock letters like someone would use for scrapbooking and I’d give her the letters (say, RADIO, but mixed up) and a clue as to what the word was (“you play music on it”) and she would figure it out. I’d do a word of the day with that and it would almost always lead to her wanting to do more. We’d play until she tired of it.

    She’s watched lots of PBS shows like Super Why and Word World and played their games on the computer. I think giving her fairly free access to the computer has really helped her reading and spelling. My tendency is to let her figure things out on her own (I have needed her to have some level of independence because I work at home and we homeschool) and just remind her often to ask me before she gets really frustrated if she needs help.

    I can’t say our results have been typical; I really don’t know. I love the English language, so it’s been natural for me to talk with her about many aspects of words, word origins, grammar, language, etc. Often I did that because I haven’t known lots of young children over the years, so I didn’t know exactly how else to relate to her and I managed to make it fun for both of us. Whenever I’ve tried to get her to do something formal, she’s not been at all interested. But once I realized that she was learning to read and reading well, I stopped worrying. What we’ve done has worked really well, so I’m happy with it.

    Since I’m about to have my second child – a boy – I’m looking forward to seeing how/when he learns to read. Should be an adventure. I’m definitely willing to try the same things I did with V, adjust as necessary, use curricula if it seems like a good fit, be patient, and to look at him as an individual learner and go from there.


    1. No apologies necessary, Maya! Thank you for your comment. Love this! It’s very inspiring for me. I’m not sure my son is as eager to learn to read as V, but I do some of the same things you do. I try not to make it a chore. Lately he is really into storytelling/puppet shows more than reading. (I’ll be blogging about that more in the future.) I think I can’t go wrong with that. It’ll give him a love of language and foster his creativity. When he’s ready he’ll put more effort into spelling the words. I do have to say that occasionally he’ll want to write something down, and he’ll ask me to write it so that he can copy it. And the computer is a big help. If he wants to look up something on the computer, I make him type it in. Once he even tried to sound out a word by himself. I had to correct his spelling on it, but he did write it just like it sounds! I praised him for the effort, and it gave me a chance to explain that some words are just a little funny.


Part of the reason I keep a blog is because being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely! So please reach out with a message, if you have a question or would like to chat. I usually write back within 24 hours, but please be patient.

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