Help Your Kindergartener Learn to Read

Help Your Kindergartener Learn to Read

People of a certain age might remember “milk and cookies” and even “nap time” as part of their kindergarten experience.   Today’s kindergarten has come a very long way!  Expectations are much higher than in the past.  This is the year children learn to read.

These expectations have been ratcheted up even more with the recent adoption of Common Core Learning Standards and the push to test children at every grade level in Illinois.  Many schools are testing kindergarteners in math and reading three times a year.

How can you help your kindergartener learn to read?  Here are some suggestions compiled by

Build Up Skills in Letter-Sound Recognition

Practice identifying upper and lower case letters.  Help your child learn alphabet sounds… “A is for apple”.  The website suggests making your own alphabet book.  With my own children,  I combined photos and stickers to make a personalized alphabet-scrapbook book.  ”A for Aunties…down to U is for Uncle.”

Introduce Sight Words 

Most parents might not be familiar with the concept of sight words.  These are words that a reader should know instantly.  Children don’t sound them out, they recognize and read the whole word immediately.   Some examples are “the, are, there, our, is, you, one, said.”

Phonics doesn’t always “work” with these words because most often they don’t sound as they are spelled. It is important to know them because children encounter so many of them while reading. It also helps with fluency so children are better able to focus on what is being read.

These sight words are referred to as The Dolch List of Basic Sight Words  and Fry’s Instant Sight words.  I put words on index cards, used them as flash cards, and then eventually taped them to the bedroom door for nightly practice.  (Check out YouTube where some people have posted demonstrations of reading sight words.)

Improve Print Recognition Ability

Help your child grasp how letters are put together to make words and how words get put together to make sentences.  Read stories together and point out punctuation and sight words.  Boggle Junior was a game we played over and over!

We would look for letters on signs (while driving), on t-shirts, on any products.  We would eat Alpha-Bits cereal, ABC soup , and even found “Scrabble” Cheez-its!  Plastic magnetic letters littered the refrigerator door.  Keeping it fun was important!

Demonstrate How to Read from Left to Right

Don’t forget to use your finger and point to what you’re reading while reading aloud to your child. This will demonstrate how the letters on the page correspond to the words you are reading.  It will also show how we read from left to right.

Help Build Reading Comprehension  Skills

Your kindergartener is not too young to start to understand characters, events, and even make predictions about the story.  You can discuss the stories you read and ask your child to make guesses about what might happen next.


One More Thing...There is an App For That….

In just the short time since I taught my own children to read (from about 5-8 years ago) there is yet another tool available to parents.  You may have heard of it…the iPhone, iTouch, or iPad?   Parents can simply download apps and games to these devices to help children with acquiring reading skills.   These reading apps let children touch, change, and interact with lessons and stories.  According to it adds to their skills as a “generation of digital natives.”  For a few suggestions on apps, visit

Lastly, don't forget the local library as a tremendous resource.  Check the library for programming and story times suitable for your kindergartener.  You can make a big deal of your child getting their first library card.  Think how grown up they will feel as they select their own books to read.

Once you have these tips in your "parental bag of tricks" and a selection of great books and an app or two,  please don't forget to add the milk and cookies! Do you have something to share that worked for your child when learning to read? Know of any great apps? Please comment, tweet, share, or contact me at


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    My name is Lisa Stiegman and I have been a Chicago area resident all my life. Besides being the mother of three children, I have been a writer, editor, and teacher.

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