Improve reading        


Reading strategies to improve reading skills


How to teach children to read 

How children learn to read


Many educational professionals maintain that there are four methods that are effective for helping children learn to read. These methods include:

  • the 'whole word' method  
  • the 'phonics' method 
  • the 'immerse in language' method, and 
  • the 'in context' method. 

However, another method is gaining widespread acceptance, the 'word family' method is another way children learn to read. It may even be the preferred, alternative method to teach children to learn to read. Below is a summary of all the five methods.

How to teach children to read using the whole word method

The whole word reading method is also known as look and say approach. With this method, rather than learning to sound out letters or letter clusters, children learn the whole word at once. To teach this method, educators often use pictures or flashcards to represent the word. The focus is on the look of the word.

Whole word reading has been criticised as not giving children strategies to read unfamiliar words. Essentially, every word must be committed to memory rather than learning how the letters and sounds form words. Most teachers maintain that a combination of phonics with whole word reading helps children to read challenging or unfamiliar words.

How to teach children to read using the phonics method

Father and daughter - How to teach children to readThe phonics method is the most known method for teaching reading. Teaching children to read using the phonics method starts with letter and sound association. Children first learn the sounds the different letters make and then learn how to blend these sounds together to form words. Then reading commences with small words that are easy to 'sound out'. After children master the smaller words, they move onto longer words.

The main problem with teaching reading using phonics, is that the method provides strategies for blending sounds together and sounding out words, but it doesn't prepare children for words that are not able to be sounded out, the irregular words. The phonics method, necessitates using simple reading material and these reading books designed for phonic instruction are often uninteresting, lack substance and boring. Therefore children are not motivated to read them.   

Teaching reading Using The Immerse In Language Method

The immerse in language method utilises the child's experiences to teach words and reading. For example, when a child draws a picture of their family, the teacher might ask the child to identify the people in the picture. As the child says such words as "this is mum", "this is my dad", "this is my dog Banjo", the teacher writes those words onto the picture. If a child draws a picture of a donkey in a forest, the teacher writes the words "here is a donkey in the forest" onto the drawing.

Some professionals suggest making a book out of children's drawings. This personalised story book could then be filled with pages that the child can read independently, as they are the author of the story. Teachers also encourage children to trace the words that have been written to practice early writing skills.

Often teachers will implement this method before they begin teaching reading using phonics, the whole word or any other reading method. As it is a useful way to help children understand the connection between the pictures and the words.  Unfortunately, this the immerse in language approach is limited to teaching children mainly nouns, or naming words. Verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc that don't have a common physical representation often cannot be taught by the immerse in language method.

How to teach children to read using the in context method

As with the immerse in language method, the 'in context' method uses the  connection between pictures and words to attract and hold the attention of the student. Some professionals believe that holding a child's attention is the single most important factor in learning to read. An uninterested child is less likely to become distracted and not enjoy the learning experience. An interested child is more likely to gain value from the reading experience.

Parents sometimes find it difficult to find reading books that has text that is interesting and able to be read by beginning readers. Young children are often presented with reading material written for their particular interests, such as dogs and princesses. However, educators believe that the disinterest that many children eventually develop can be related to the poor quality reading materials provided for them in the early years. 

How to teaching children to read using word families

One of the major criticisms of the phonics method of teaching children to read is that it addresses consonant sounds far better than it does vowel sounds. For instance, the letter "d" is pronounced the same way, whether the word it is used in is "dime" or "dig". However, using those same two words, the letter "i" can be either "short" or "long". This discrepancy in sound 'rules' makes it very difficult for beginner readers to learn how to say the various vowel sounds.

The word family method addresses vowel sounds and consonant sounds in a way that makes it easier to learn both. Word families teaches children the consonant sounds and the main word blends. Rather than rely on memory, word families uses the most commonly used family word blends to teach children how to read just about any word.

How children learn to read - summary

Summarising the various reading methods listed above, there really is no one way to teach children to read. Each child is different and the best method may be a combination of all of the above methods to teach your children how to read.

...Next - Ways to teach reading

Great book

 Teach your child to read - get the book

More links


"Thanks Jen for your 'Teach children to read' book, it was exactly what I was looking for - a fun, interactive and play based program. It provided an easy to follow guide that made sense!" 

 Greta, AUS


Articles - Improving reading (children) 

 Improve reading by reading to children
 Improve reading success
 How to teach children to read
 How to teach reading - reading strategies
 Improve reading
 Good books for children
 Selecting good books for children to read

Articles - Improving reading (adults)

 Reading strategies
 Reading comprehension
 Speed reading
 Read better by improving reading habits