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30 simple ways to get your child ready to read

Sara is a literacy junkie who longs to run away with Pigeon to drive buses and stay up late. She also discusses the art of simple living at On Simplicity, where she’s slowly learning how to have less and enjoy more.

Getting your little ones ready to read is a huge, complicated undertaking.

Or maybe not.

According to ALA-supported research, if your child has just six early literacy skills mastered by the time they enter kindergarten, then their chances of becoming successful readers rise substantially.

The best part?

These skills are incredibly simple to incorporate into everyday activities. In fact, you’re probably using some of these tactics already.

Ready to give your child the tools they need to be ready to read? Try these 30 simple tactics that are all free and fun!

Print Motivation:

Does your child think reading is fun? If so, you’ve laid the foundation for a lifetime of reading. To boost print motivation, you can:

1. Smile as you read a book together.
2. Choose funny stories, or topics that your child loves.
3. Let your child choose what books you’ll read together.
4. Use reading time as a reward, never a punishment.
5. You read on your own. Your child models their behavior on you, so if they see you reading, they’ll grow up thinking it’s normal to read for entertainment.

Print Awareness:

Does your child know what a book is? Does your child know how to turn pages and recognize what letters are? Print awareness is just ensuring that your munchkin understands that reading correlates to words on a page.

6. Let your child turn the pages as you read.
7. Use your finger to follow the print as you read together.

Photo by full*instrumental

8. Let your baby chew on board books. I promise that this counts as a literacy experience!
9. Point out writing as you go on walks or trips. Print is everywhere when you start looking!
10. Hold the book upside down every once in a while and let your child correct you.

Letter Recognition:

Has your child learned their ABCs? Letter recognition is a key component of reading readiness.
11. Keep a set of alphabet magnets on the fridge.
12. Point out the first letter of your child’s name anywhere you see it (cereal boxes, billboards, store signage, etc.)
13. Sing the alphabet song. Try it backwards, too, or with a funky beat!
14. Read alphabet books that have large, clear print.
15. Draw letters together. Use unique or exciting art supplies to keep it fun.

Narrative Skills:

Can your child tell a story? Can they describe events or explain what’s happening? Being able to understand and tell a story is part of learning to read, and it’s important to overall reading comprehension.

16. After you finish a story or TV show, ask your child to retell you what happened.
17. Ask, “What do you think is going to happen next?” as you read a book or watch a movie.
18. Ask your child to tell you a story as you cook dinner.
19. Tell a story while you take a walk. Classics like the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood are great ways to show kids that stories can be told in different words and still mean the same thing.
20. Re-read books. (I told you that you were probably already doing some of these!) Hearing the stories again and again (and again) helps children understand the plot and recognize the pattern of a story.

Phonological Awareness:

Can your child hear the smaller sounds that make up words? (For instance, “apple” breaks down to “a” and “pull.”) Do they recognize rhyming words like “cat” and “bat”?

21. Sing songs together. In songs, each syllable is naturally assigned a different note, so it’s super-easy for kids to figure out the different components of words.
22. Play rhyming games. Take turns coming up with nonsense rhyming words.
23. Sing nursery rhymes together.
24. Discover words together that start with the same letter as his or her first name.
25. Clap out syllables to words, like bal-loon or um-brel-la. This is fun to do when you read board books that have one word on each page.


Does your child have a big enough word bank to help them recognize and use words they see in print?

26. Take a discovery walk, where you identify items you see.
27. Offer the name of an item when your child points to something or asks for the “thing.”
28. Read the words on a page as they are. Don’t replace big or challenging words with easier ones. They’ll bluebird.jpghave an easier time recognizing those words when they do start reading if they’ve heard them a few times before.
29. Ask follow-up questions and add details to their responses. (“It’s a bird.” “Yes, it’s a bird with blue feathers.”)
30. Just talk to each other. Talk about your days, your feelings, what you’re doing (“Now I’m stirring up the batter. Do you think it will taste good?”) Use the same words as you would when talking to a friend.

How many of these things do you already do?  Which ones do you think you’ll add to your family life?

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Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Lori Ann

    What fun ideas! Bookmarking for when I have kids old enough… I have to have them, first 🙂

    Lori Ann’s last blog post…Ask me!

  2. Tami

    Great Post, very accurate and good information for your readers! (full disclosure — I am a speech-language pathologist)

    Tami’s last blog post…Work of Women and Poverty

  3. Chelsey @ Brown Eyed Basics

    My mom did a lot of these things with me when I was little. We have a picture of me when I was 2 or so with a pile of books, looking at one upside down. She says that was a sign of things to come, because one day when I was 4 we were driving and I looked at a stop sign, said the letters and then said “That spells STOP.” She almost wrecked the car!

    Chelsey @ Brown Eyed Basics’s last blog post…Love Stories for October: A Truly Long-Distance Relationship

  4. Sarah Mae

    Great tips! I have a three year old that I reguarly do many of the things on the list naturally, but I also think she is drawn towards letters. I will incorporate the making up silly ryming words together and turning the book upside to correct me. I also will clap out the syllables to words. Good stuff! 🙂

    Sarah Mae’s last blog post…Wisdom & Treasure Series – How Do You Spend $300 A Month On Groceries?!

  5. Jennifer P

    Awesome post with lots of great reminders. Thanks.

    Jennifer P’s last blog post…Indian Summer

  6. Anna

    Love the ideas! I am an avid reader and have tried to install the same love of books in my children. I think that I already do most of these ideas with my kids. I also think it’s important to read to your kids even if you think they’re “too little”. I’ve read to all three of my own kids since they were newborn.

    Anna’s last blog post…Quickie Bedroom Makeovers

  7. Krista

    my son was diagnosed last year with Childhood Apraxia of Speech – through MUCH speech therapy he’s now got an above average vocab for his age (4)… i can’t stress enough how much reading to/with him played a huge role in the progress he made.

    #28 is especially important these days because he is curious about the meaning of various words. i’ve caught my mom replacing words when reading books to him, and she doesn’t understand why i want her to read it as it’s written. i feel so strongly that it is helping him – already i can see a love of language and the written word in him, and i want to do everything i can to encourage that!

    Krista’s last blog post…The Vivanno – or, why I love Starbucks

  8. robyn

    when i was growing up, my brothers were much younger than me, and when i’d read to them i’d let them pick books off my bookshelf. this led to my brother dan hearing me read books like a Tale Of Two Cities when he was five or six. my mom encouraged it, though, and so i did it with the youngest as well. they both LOVE to read and have always had ridiculously large vocabularies.

    reading a variety of books like these also fostered loves of history and nature and a variety of other things at an incredibly young age.

  9. Sara at On Simplicity

    Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to write about a topic I’m passionate about! I’m so excited to see that readers are already doing a lot of these, and especially that they’re seeing the benefits already!

  10. JW

    Great ideas! We have an eight year-old, and a four year-old, and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. My daughter has always been a reader, and is now reading some lengthy chapter books such as the Little House on the Prarie series by Wilder. My son is still in the “picture” book phase, but is starting to recognize more letters and full words and we are emphasizing reading a little more with him (boys just don’t seem to want to settle down long enough to read– at least, ours doesn’t!).

    JW’s last blog post…First Time Home Buyer, Make Your House a Blessing

  11. Caitlin

    I love Mo Willems!

    Caitlin’s last blog post…tag

  12. Samantha

    Wow what wonderful info, bookmarking this post for when my hubby & I have little readers… thank you for this!

    Samantha’s last blog post…Guacamole salad

  13. Ella

    Thanks for this post! Such great tips!

    I’m naturally a voracious reader – have been since I was a child – I thought it would stop when I had kids as I’d be too busy – but I still manage to squeeze in 30 minutes of reading in bed 🙂

    My twins (17 month) view reading as some other toddlers view TV shows LOL (I don’t let them watch any kids TV yet – will phase that in after they turn 2)…they are so excited at playtime to have their daddy or I read to them – they really consider it a treat! I hope this continues as they grow up.

    I buy board books off ebay, wipe them clean (with antibacterial soap and water) and let them dry – this way we have LOADS of books to read – (so not boring for Hubby and me) – and I don’t get too upset when they trash them (which they do – they can’t help but nibble on books LOL! And no matter how sturdy – the pages start coming off!)

  14. Jessica

    Great post! One thing I would suggest for Letter Recognition would be to not only teach your child the alphabet, but that each symbol (letter) has its own meaning (sound). Basically, teach the phonetics with (or even before) you teach the letter names.

    When I worked as a Montessori teacher one of the hardest things when it came to reading, for some children, was that they knew the letter names but not the sounds. To me, it makes sense to teach the sound first, because when we speak and read we don’t spell out words by their letter, we blend together their sounds until it results in meaning.

    Jessica’s last blog post…Works-for-Me Wednesday

  15. Jeff@MySuperChargedLife

    These are great ideas! We are doing a lot of these, but this puts structure to it.

    I think that two of the best things that you can do for your children in this area is to read to them daily and to familiarize them with the library. This gets their interest in books started early and opens up all kinds of choices for them.

    Jeff@MySuperChargedLife’s last blog post…Back To Basics: 79+ Brilliant Budgeting Resources You’ll Love

  16. Amanda @ Sweet Simple Life

    This is great! It’s things like this that make me want to start a family. I cannot wait to teach my own children and watch them learn and grow. Thanks for the wonderful info!

  17. Maya

    Wow, great tips. I think I do most of these. Making reading fun for kids is so important! I have a 25 month old who recognizes most alphabets and even small words. Some things I do:
    1. Act like a child when I read.
    2. Talk about and recall stories, letters, words and create associations as much as possible (this has been mentioned here and is very powerful)
    3. Read aloud a LOT. Longer stories might seem too much for little kids but they love the sequence of events. Within reading the books a couple of times my little one is hooked. Reading aloud to kids has immense benefits I believe.

  18. Amy

    My son (age 4) has been a huge fan of letters for quite a while and he loves to write words down and sound words out. A great game we play on longer car rides (especially when he is getting whiny) is to find letters on signs and billboards that spell out his name (first, middle and last) as we go. He loves the excitement of identifying the next letter and, as an added bonus, he can write out his whole name entirely on his own!
    Thanks for all the other great tips.

    Amy’s last blog post…favorite things :: homemade applesauce and worms

  19. Nikki

    This is an excellent list! It definitely reminds me to slow down and pay more attention with my younger kids. My oldest certainly got this kind of attention, my two little ones deserve it too!

    Nikki’s last blog post…The Whole Freaky Face Family

  20. Gram

    Great list. I would like to second what Jessica said about also helping your preschoolers to learn the sounds of the letters (not just the names of the letters). It’s great to know that this is a letter “m,” but if the child doesn’t make the connection between the symbol (m) and the sound, it will be much harder to learn to read. By the way, I’m not a big fan of formal teaching of preschoolers. All of this can be done as a natural part of reading and enjoying books and of living and playing. When my youngest was three, we were reading a board book. One of the pages pictured a dark blue night sky with the words printed in black on the sky instead of at the bottom of the page as usual. She interrupted my reading and said, “Mommy, where are the words?” Before I could answer, she pointed at the words printed on the dark night sky and said, “Oh, there they are, Mommy.” I never taught her that those symbols were words, but she had already made that association on her own just from our regular reading and enjoyment of books.

  21. wrongshoes

    My 3.5 year old has all these things, but still won’t sit and look at a book alone. I don’t know what the deal is with that.

    wrongshoes’s last blog post…Seeing through his mother’s eyes

  22. Felicity

    I love these Ideas 🙂 and hope to put them into practice with friends children (and mine one day too if I have a family)

    Mum use to give me a white pages (phone book) to teach me to turn pages. It use to keep me occupied for hours 🙂 and it didn’t matter if I ripped the pages.

  23. Becky

    WOW! This list is great. As a teacher I couldn’t agree more with this list. Thanks for sharing such great information!

    find your gold star at

    Becky’s last blog post…Hats off for Improvising

  24. Tonya

    This is a great list, Sara. Thanks for the reminders. I have a 20 month old who knows his letters and even spells out words- thoroughly surprising us when he does. We do a lot of the things on your list already and I think it will make a huge difference for him.
    And I totally agree with jeff: take them to the library. Often.

    Tonya’s last blog post…Cute, Modern Baby Book?

  25. Judy Ramirez

    The word “apple” can be encoded as follows, with ending letters reversed /-le/. Preschoolers love to learn speech sounds!

    V-Sound 1 /a/
    C-Sound 16 /pp/
    V-Sound 4 /e/
    C-Sound 37 /l/

  26. ABCs of Investing

    Very enjoyable post – I really like the suggestion that allowing the baby to chew on the book counts as a reading experience. Lol!

    Our 2 year old loves books – however the interest does come and go sometimes.

    ABCs of Investing’s last blog post…Investment Asset Classes

  27. gnoney

    I am a big reader and always have been – so are my kids. But my brother was never into reading. In first grade he would go to the library with his class and never checked out a book for 3 months. When his teacher finally realized it he was like, “but I don’t want to read a book!” but she made him go get one. He remembers just picking some random book up because he really didn’t want to read anything. So every time his class went to the library after that he’d get a book so he wouldn’t get in trouble but he’d never read it. He thought then, as he still does now, that he’d rather have an adventure than read about one. He was always out playing instead of inside reading. He’s now a successful business man who is currently living out an adventure oversees. That said, he isn’t illiterate or anything! Ha, just thought I’d share a contrarian’s point of view.

  28. Jennifer

    Simply wonderful post. This is a subject I am passionate about as well (I am a Mom and an occupational therapist). Many of the suggestions mentioned also support writing skill development. I love that all your ideas incorporate making it fun — that’s the most important part. Having fun with language & letters, reading & writing, is where a love of learning begins. Isn’t it amazing to watch them figure it all out?

    Jennifer’s last blog post…10 Minutes

  29. Danielle

    Great post!

  30. Melitsa

    Simple steps to encourage reading. Easy and fun to do. It’s easy to pick out and do bits at a time rather than use it as a checklist from 1-30.

    Melitsa’s last blog post…What type of play do you encourage?

  31. Christopher

    Whenever I played DVD for my kids, I always turned on the captioning, they saw the words and heard the dialogue at the same time, they are both exceptional readers.

  32. Sandy

    Awesome! I love ALA’s Every Child Ready to Read Program. You did a good job of presenting the information, too.
    I invite parents to visit my reading website for free printables and a host more activity ideas.

    Sandy´s last blog post…Free Online Workshop!

  33. Mathew

    UGH – Chewing on board books . . . people come over and ask when we got a new puppy – I just cringe and let them know that it was my boys that were chewing on them. I guess I just need to feed them more :O)

    Mathew´s last blog post…I can do it like a rabbit

  34. Debi

    Great advice – I’m bookmarking this for others. Thank you!
    .-= Debi´s last blog ..Home vs School =-.

  35. Priya I. Mandal

    My son loves to listen to stories. He flips the books and enjoys seeing pictures. He’s a little over 2. But he has a bad habit of tearing off the pages as he reads or finishes reading. How do you think I can make him understand that he should not do so? Or should I just ignore this habit and wait till he grows up a bit?

  36. Awais Irshad

    This is an incredible list! I started doing this last year with my first critic as a result of I got “fiiiine” the primary time I asked however her day was and had a fast flashback to being bombarded by my mama as shortly as I walked within the door with constant question on a daily basis.

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