4 Signs Your Child Is Ready to Read

Like many things in life, it can be hard to predict when a child’s brain will be ready to make the millions of connections required to actually read a word on her own.

Signs ready to readTo illustrate how difficult making this prediction can be, I like to compare it to guessing when your child would walk.  For months you watched her pull herself up to a standing position and helped her take steps while she held on to your hands.  Then one day, maybe unexpectedly, she took her first step on her own.   {A moment I am sure you will never forget!}

Just like your child showed signs that she was almost ready to start walking, she will also give clues that she is ready to begin reading.  Teachers call these “pre-reading skills” and they include:

  1. Motivation
  2. Print Awareness
  3. Letter Recognition
  4. Phonological Awareness

What do those funny terms mean in real world language? And how can you teach them to your kids?



Motivating new readers a no-brainer.  Children must be interested in reading before they will put forth the effort to learn how to do it.

Gathering books on topics your child enjoys and making story time a special chance to bond as a family are two quick ways to increase her motivation. For more fun, make a reading chain or go on a reading date.

Print Awareness

Print Awareness

Children should understand that readers sound out words on a page by looking at letters, thinking about what sounds they make, and putting those sounds together to make words.  Kids don’t need to be able to actually sound out the word on their own, but they should grasp the concept.

Print awareness also includes understanding how to read a book.  Children should be able to point to the cover, show you how to turn a page when you finish reading the words, and hold the book so that it faces the correct direction.

One quick way to help your child improve her understanding of reading basics is to think out loud.  Check out the short video {below} explaining this technique.

Letter Recognition

Letter Recognition

Before children read, they can typically name the letters they see.  {“That is a B.  That is an O.”}  Being able to recognize the ABCs prepares them for learning letter sounds later.

Since some of the best {and most entertaining} learning happens when children are playing, help your child recognize letters with a fun round of ABC Cup Hunt, read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and then try this sticker match up, and do some alphabet letter stamping.

Phonological Awareness

Phonological Awareness

Said more simply, children need to be able to hear the sounds in words.  For example:

1.  Do “cat” and “dog” rhyme?  Answer: No, they do not end with the same sound.

2.  What is the first sound in the word “rabbit”?  Answer: /r/.

3.  How many syllables do you hear when you clap out the word “rodeo”?  Answer: Three – /ro/  /de/  /o/.

To help your child improve her phonological awareness, play rhyming games like “Little Mouse, Little Mouse” and Five Little Monkeys. Teach her how to break words into parts and put together a beginning sound sort.

Ready to Teach Your Child to Read?

Readers asked for an easy to follow program that would help them with everything from how motivating their reluctant reader to fun ways to teach sight words. To help, I created a pack of 40 new reader games kids love PLUS 20 emergent reader books about their favorite things. Check out the New Reader Bundle here.

Motivating Games for New Readers



Malia Hollowell

Malia Hollowell

Malia is a National Board Certified elementary teacher turned stay at home mom to three young kids {5, 3 and 1}. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education {go Stanford Cardinal!} and spent seven years teaching in a classroom before taking time off to raise her little ones.
Malia Hollowell

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  1. What a great post – we are missing out on learning letter names instead going straight for phonics/letter sounds. It’s already starting to show an affect – J is 33 months old and he’s starting to sound out letters in words that he can see.

    We also use Alphablocks (a Cbeebies cartoon for preschoolers) activities online and watch the programme during quiet times which I think supports the letter sound recognition and he enjoys as they are quite fun

    • Yay! I love watching children learn to read. I haven’t heard about Alphablocks before but will definitely check it out now. Thank you for the recommendation, Cerys.

  2. My son will turn three in July and he has recently started reading beginner books. It is so exciting for us (and a little bittersweet seeing him grow up so fast)! I especially agree with the motivation aspect–I try to pay attention to what he’s interested in and run with it. There have been some things that he’s picked up early, and other things he’s done later.

    Thanks for the helpful links!

  3. reading readiness is a bit different in the waldorf school curriculum, which is where my daughter attends school. i think waldorf poses some interesting points about when kids are ready to read. this is an interesting post about reading from the waldorf-oriented blog, parenting passageway: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/21/regarding-waldorf-and-the-early-reader/

  4. Very good list. I taught my girls the letter names and sound at the same time though. They are 4 and 5 and sounding out words pretty well!

  5. Martine Bracke says:

    Please could you update the link of the video for the Print awarness or send it to me thanks.


  6. GREAT post, Malia! I am sharing this on my Facebook page and will be sure to direct readers to it when they’re wondering if their kids are ready to read.

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