4 Signs Kids are Ready to Read

Mar 13, 2015

Teaching kids how to read was one of my favorite parts of being a kindergarten teacher. Helping kids progress from rhyming to naming letters to reading words was just plain magical.

One of the things parents asked me most often was how I knew kids were ready to read. It all felt so mysterious.

4 signs kids are ready to read. Super helpful to see all of the clues in one spot.

The answer is a little bit complicated. Just like you’re never 100% sure at what moment kids will take their first step, we also can’t name the time and place when kids will read their first word. But there are four telling signs that kids are ready to jump in and start the reading process.

4 signs kids are ready to read. SO helpful to know what to look for!
Children give clues that they are ready to begin readingTeachers 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? Let’s look at them more closely one by one.



Motivating new readers is 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 or relax in class are two quick ways to increase their motivation. For more inspiration check out our favorite tips for motivating reluctant readers.

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, you can help your child recognize letters with a batch of super fun ABC games.

50 Fun ABC Games

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.

Are Your Kids Ready to Read?

After readers asked for an easy-to-follow, fun-to-play activity pack that teaches kids everything from rhyming to letter sounds to sight words and even CVCe words, I pulled together the Endless Guided Reading Bundle. It gives you everything you need to teach kids how to read in one simple download.

No more time spent hunting for effective, motivating ways to teach kids how to read. Everything you need is in one spot – laid out for you step-by-step. Check it out here.

Endless Guided Reading Bundle



  1. Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum

    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

    • Malia

      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. Jen @ Jen Spends

    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!

    • Malia

      I very much enjoyed reading the article! Thanks for introducing it to me.

  3. Ashley

    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!

    • Malia

      Good reminder that every child learns differently, Ashley!

      When I was teaching kindergarten, I also taught the names and sounds of letters at the same time. My Alphabet Olympics post shares some ideas on what that looks like: https://www.playdoughtoplato.com/2012/06/05/alphabet-olympics/

      Thanks again for sharing your family’s experience!

  4. Martine Bracke

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


    • Malia Hollowell

      I’m sorry that the link wasn’t working, Martine!! I just uploaded the video to the post. 🙂

  5. Anna@The Measured Mom

    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.

  6. Annisakih

    Hai Malia, thanks for sharing. I have a son (2y9m) who always curious about letter and ‘read’. I wonder if we’re too soon, or else, then I read this and sure that He’s ready

    • Kimberleigh

      Hello Annisa,
      Thank you so much for reaching out. Children are ready in their own time to learn and it sounds like your son is ready to try. He is lucky to have a mom like you who is picking up on the signals. There are a lot of fun activities on here to keep you and your son inspired! Have so much fun on this learning journey!



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Hi, I’m Malia.

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