Everything you want to know about teaching your child to read.

Great tips from RTL English about children reading.

A RTL English Parents’ Guide To: Helping Your Child To Read

Every parent wants his or her child to be a successful reader. Reading, after all, provides the foundation for a great education as well as a lifelong skill that brings, not only knowledge, but pleasure as well.

Building on What We Know About Learning To Read

Research on reading, and learning to read, shows that there are things that can be done at home from an early age that help children become successful readers. The following suggestions, which are backed up by research, should be especially helpful to parents and caregivers of young children.

  • Teaching young children to recognize the letters of the alphabet is a big boost to reading readiness.

  • Recognizing alphabet letters is one of the single strongest predictors of reading success for young children entering school.

  • Alphabet recognition lays a critical foundation for learning to read and write.

  • Reading to children helps them to understand about books and print. Children need to understand that print carries a meaningful message and that stories have a structure. By hearing many stories read to them, and by discussing those stories, children learn that a story has a beginning, middle and an end; it has characters setting, and plot. Children who have had exposure to many children’s books can usually indicate when a story does not ‘make sense’ even if they can’t say that it has no plot. Through reading to children, parents can help them understand that there is a connection between the words on the page and what they hear as a story being read to them.

  • Encouraging children to listen to words, ask questions and use their imagination fosters a desire to read for themselves. RTL English Read To Me story book, with CD, will help enormously.

  • Talking with your child about a book or story helps him develop vocabulary. As a child learns to speak, he also learns how to listen. He begins to understand how words are strung together to make sense, the patterns of language, and the ways language change when used for different purposes such as giving directions, explaining or entertaining.

  • Reading about familiar things helps children relate to what is being read to them. Beginners will have a hard time understanding what they read if they have no experience of the words. For example, it is difficult for a child who has never seen snow to understand a story about a blizzard.

  • On the other hand it can be very limiting and difficult trying to find titles to match the young readers’ experience. New information is a new experience and one of the most important reasons for reading. It gives the opportunity for discussion and improving knowledge. RTL English incorporates both strategies.

  • Showing the relationship between writing and reading is another way to build reading skill. Helping children learn to write their name, compose notes to friends and family members, and copy favourite words are all ways that parents can help children develop understanding and skills in writing that transfer to reading.

  • Show that both reading and writing moves from the left of the page to the right. Remembering to show this to your child makes a big difference in their concept of ‘how to do it’. Many letters on the page are very confusing to a beginner, just pointing out that you begin on the left and move to the right gives significant confidence.

Ways To Build a Reading Foundation for Your Child

  • Label things in the home such as the table, the refrigerator, doors, etc. Collect the labels and have your child put them back on the correct objects. Make sure to use a font (if using a computer) recognised by your child.

  • The letters in ‘Century Gothic’ or ‘Avant Garde’ are two examples of an easily recognised font.

  • While in the car, walking or riding on the bus, have the child look out for, and read, familiar signs and words.

  • Talk to children about what they like to do – their favourite games, pastimes and picture books. Listen to your child’s stories, accounts of events and ideas.

  • Make plans for the day with your child. As children get older, plans can be written in a short schedule. The schedule can be used to search for familiar words and to learn new words.

  • Encourage your child to ask questions. Show how some questions can be answered by looking for information in books.

Ways To Help Your Child Develop Vocabulary and Concepts

  • Talk about new words the child hears and connect them to words the child already knows.

  • Look for letters of the alphabet on signs and labels.

  • Say rhymes and play rhyming games in the car, on the bus, while walking or waiting in many situations. The rhymes help your child to recognise words that sound the same. Rhyming games help your child to match words that sound the same.

  • Introduce your child to ‘beginning sounds and ending sounds’. Say, “ Listen carefully. Listen to the beginning of this word. What sound can you hear?” If you are not familiar with the various letter sounds there is an RTL English Single Sounds book and CD.

  • Play the game, I spy with my little eye where one person describes:

    • a) an object in view or

    • b) a beginning sound, or

    • c) the name of a letter and the child must guess what it is.

  • Help children make connections among words or concepts such as “winter–cold, sand-beach” or “dinner–food, presents- birthday.”

Ways To Talk with Your Child About Books

  • Ask your child to predict what might happen next while reading a story. Be sure to ask your child to give reasons for the prediction.

  • Ask your child why a character might have taken a specific action. Again, ask for the reasons behind the answer.

  • Ask your child to compare a book to another familiar book. How are the characters alike or different? Do the stories take place in similar places? How are the illustrations similar or different?

  • Ask what part of the story the child liked best and why.

  • Ask whether the child liked the ending of the story and why or why not.

Ways To Help Your Child Connect Reading and Writing

  • Encourage your child to draw pictures about books or experiences. Drawing is a preparation for writing because it develops both the muscles needed for writing and children’s ability to represent their ideas.

  • Show your child how to write his/her name.

  • Help your child to compose a note to a relative or friend. Have your child dictate as you write. Read the note back to the child pointing to the words as you read them. Older children can look for familiar words in the note.


  • When your child is very small, just being together to talk about books is all that is necessary. A comfy chair, a beanbag or two, tucked up in bed at night, anywhere where you both feel comfortable.

  • In the car it’s often a good idea to put a book bag on the back of the passenger seat so that your child can help himself to books. Many children love listening to stories, joining in rhymes and singing along to numerous suitable tapes and CDs.

  • A book corner is a good idea at home (it doesn’t have to be very big) as it gets your child used to the idea that their books are special and have their own place.

  • When your child is around 4-5yrs old (and older) it is a good idea to go along to the designated children’s book areas in bookshops. However, you will need to give direction while you are there. Allow your child to choose the books, show an interest and help where necessary, ask questions about the pictures and stories.

  • Don’t forget to:

    • a) encourage careful handling of the books,

    • b) tidying them away, and of course

    • c) to buy one to take home!

  • • One of the most useful things you can do is to create a learning area at home (again it doesn’t have to be very big).

  • Children appreciate having their own space; a space they associate with learning encourages learning habits.

  • Around 4-5yrs old you can encourage your child to sit down (for short periods – say 10 minutes) to understand the concept of learning.

  • This is learning with you, not by them selves. They become quite excited by this and consider it as their special time.

Encouragement and Praise

  • As we all know children react most positively to praise. Learning to read is such a tremendous step in a child’s life they deserve all the praise they are given.

  • As each child progresses, and the tasks become more challenging, they need to be encouraged to persevere, and praised for each accomplished task.

  • RTL English actively encourages all children to read by:

    • Reading to the children; encouraging dialogue

    • Showing the children words and books

    • Encouraging good listening skills

    • Teaching the alphabet of upper and lower case letters

    • Teaching Phonemic Awareness

    • Teaching decoding of the words

    • Encouraging discussion and comprehension from the first story page to the last

    • Providing 550 story pages

    • Providing structured learning programmes