There’s something really cool about being a parent of a kid between ages 2 and 5: change happens quickly. It’s perfectly natural for us to think that since they just learned to count to 20, in Spanish, know all the shapes, and can name any body part we point to, they are ready to read. We introduce them to letters, sounds, and even sight words.

Here are some simple ways to get your kid excited about reading. These activities are fun for parents and kids and extremely helpful for reading teachers in the not-so-distant future.

Beef up your alphabet song

Most kids know the basic ABC song from a very young age. Learning the song comes first, then identifying letters, and eventually letter sounds. Adding those letter sounds is how you beef up your ABC song. One example is to start each verse with a word that starts with a particular letter, say the sound, and then the letter name, doing each of these twice. The format for the letter A might be: Apple. Apple. Short a sound. Short a sound. A. A. “Apple, apple, a, a, a.” Then “Baby, baby, b, b, b.” Choose whatever tune you want or make up your own. Organizing your alphabet sound song by theme is fun, too. My kids have enjoyed a version where each letter is a food item or name of someone we know. Singing this helps commit it to memory and it’s easy to do in the car or at home.

Rhyme game

Rhymes are a popular way to introduce kids to word families and phoneme chunks. When starting out, model rhyming words by stating them in pairs. “Cat-rat.” Bat-sat.” Kids might catch on quickly and make up their own rhymes, or they might just listen and process, saving what they hear to apply at a later time. When they start to make their own rhymes, be careful not to dismiss silly sounding words. It’s tempting to correct them, but they are just getting the hang of word sounds and that some words sound like others. If you say “what rhymes with fish?” and the response is “smish” just have a good laugh and ask them what smish means.


Starting with their name, encourage them to start thinking about how spelling works. Try spelling names out loud. If you are writing a grocery list, or addressing a letter and your child is in the room, spell a few words aloud so they can hear you break the word into letters. Spell the names of items on the dinner table, noticing the beginning, ending and middle sounds. When they are playing with a toy or character, casually ask what letter is the first sound in the name. Encourage them to listen to the word and talk about what sounds they hear.

Writing practice

Give them lots and lots of pre-writing practice. Paper, pencils, markers, dry erase boards, chalk on the driveway, paint, etc. If you can write with it, and you can stand the mess it may make, let your child scribble to his heart’s content. Fill those pages with ink and paint and talk about letters while the writing is happening. Every scrap of paper with scribble and blobs of paint is practice for writing skills down the road. And when you talk about letters and sounds while writing, your child is soaking it all in to apply to more formal instruction later.

Reading with a twist

Read with your kids as often as possible. The twist to this old adage is for you, the reader, to leave out words and encourage your child to fill them in. Start with a story you have read over and over and leave off the word at the end of the sentence. “I do not like green eggs and ____. I do not like them Sam I __.” Give him a little nudge if he needs it, or ask him to read with you. For an added bonus, put your finger on the page under the words so he can start to make the connection that each word stands on its own.

– Sara Marchessault

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