Suggestions On How To Teach Your Child To Read

by Michael Levin, M.D., author of The Reading Lesson

If you want to teach your child to read, there are some simple things you can do to make the task easier.

Teach the sounds of the letters together with their names.
The sound (or sounds) of the letters are often different from the name of the letter. In reading, it is the sounds that count. When you read to the child, point to the letter C, for example and say; “the name of this letter is [see] and it makes two sounds: [kkk] as in the word cat and also [sss] as in the word cent.” Then ask child to give you examples.

Do not be rigid in how the child pronounces the sounds. Regional accents and sometimes weak auditory skills make it hard for children to say most sounds in an academically correct fashion. Accept a reasonable effort. Recognize that learning sounds is only an intermediate step to learning to read.

Teach lower case letters first.
Have you noticed that nearly all ABC books for young children teach uppercase letters first? Yet capital letters account for only five percent of all letters in written English. Therefore, pay more attention to teaching the lower case letters. Lower case letters are far more important in developing reading skills.

Do not worry about grammar at this point.
Preschoolers,  kindergartners, and first graders are very concrete in the way they think and cannot handle complicated concepts. It is not necessary at this stage to teach them about consonants, vowels, long and short sounds and such grammatical constructs. Young children can learn to read just as well without these rules.

By age four, most English-speaking children already have an excellent grasp of grammar of the language and in due time, they will learn all the formal grammatical rules in school. At this point, you need to concentrate only on developing the mechanical skill of reading.

Teach your child writing along with reading.
Children learn to read faster and easier if they learn to write at the same time. The motor memory of the letters, listening to their sounds and seeing them in writing will reinforce new learning. So, teach your child to write letters and words. Download Writing Lesson demo from our website ( to get your child started.

Limit the initial reading vocabulary.
Reading is a very complex process. Not all words can be read using simple phonic rules. Many important words need to be learned by sight. Teach only the simple and common words at first. The knowledge of 300 to 400 key words often called Dolch words, is all a young child needs to be able to read well. Download our word list on the main page of our website at to get your child started.

Audiotapes, video or software cannot teach children to read.
The young child can pay attention to any one activity only for a short time particularly if it is challenging. Instructional audio tapes and most software with music can be very distracting. Weak listening skills paired with short attention span make audiotapes and most videotapes not very effective.

Parents put a lot of faith in computers but software by itself also cannot teach your child to read. Unfortunately, most commercial reading software programs emphasize flash and entertainment over structure and content. These programs entertain and engage the child but fail at actually teaching them to read.

To really learn to read, your child needs the most important tool of all – the kitchen table – where you sit together and spend about ten minutes a day working through the process step-by-little-step.

Questions most parents ask…

What is the right age to start learning to read?
Most children can begin at age four. You can begin teaching the sounds of letters at about four years. Simple reading instructions can be started about the same time. By five the pace of new learning and reading fluency can increase dramatically. Most children can learn to read at the second-grade level, by age six.

Can I hurt my child by starting early?
Of course not, but you may help significantly. Studies conducted over the last thirty-five years concluded that early reading gives the child a significant advantage in school. Children who start reading before the first grade maintain their lead in reading and comprehension over their “regular pace” peers through grade school. Early readers are also likelier to excel in other academic subjects as well.

About 10% of all children show signs of reading problems in second and third grade. By starting early you decrease the chance that your child will be one these children.

What about phonics?
Although the Reading Lesson is primarily a phonics-based program, we do recognize that there is a great deal of brouhaha over phonics. Any reading program based solely on phonics is both boring and difficult for the child and is incomplete. Our language is not totally phonic and many words do not follow phonics rules and need to be memorized. We need phonics to teach the child how words sound. But reading fluency can only be achieved when the child learns to recognize the word as a whole rather than sounding out. A successful reading program must combine phonics with some elements of whole word approach.

This is exactly what we have done in the Reading Lesson.

Where to start?

Start with the Reading Lesson.

The Reading Lesson best meets the criteria of a good reading program. It is specifically designed for young children. Its pages are clean, non-distracting and non-intimidating and it offers an easy to follow recipe or teaching your child to read. Books form an integral part of the program. The program is visual and innovative, easy to use, and produces results quickly. The program has been particularly successful with children who have had difficulties learning to read.

I created this course with my wife and have tried it with many children in my practice. It is also used in many schools around the country.

Dr. Michael Levin specializes in developmental pediatrics and child psychiatry. He is in private practice in San Ramon, California. Dr. Levin was Medical Director of the University of Irvine Child Development Center before moving to Northern California. He has been on clinical faculty staff of Stanford University and University of California and is currently Medical Director of EastBay Psychopharmacology Group. The Reading Lesson was developed by Dr. Levin and his wife, Charan. Both their children, Nina and Victor, learn to read with the Reading Lesson. Dr. Levin can be contacted at