Kindergarten learning read

Teaching children to read isn’t easy. How do kids actually learn to read?

A student in a Mississippi elementary school reads a book in class. Research shows young children need explicit, systematic phonics instruction to learn how to read fluently. Credit: Terrell Clark for The Hechinger Report

Teaching kids to read isn’t easy; educators often feel strongly about what they think is the “right” way to teach this essential skill. Though teachers’ approaches may differ, the research is pretty clear on how best to help kids learn to read. Here’s what parents should look for in their children’s classroom.

How do kids actually learn how to read?

Research shows kids learn to read when they are able to identify letters or combinations of letters and connect those letters to sounds. There’s more to it, of course, like attaching meaning to words and phrases, but phonemic awareness (understanding sounds in spoken words) and an understanding of phonics (knowing that letters in print correspond to sounds) are the most basic first steps to becoming a reader.

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If children can’t master phonics, they are more likely to struggle to read. That’s why researchers say explicit, systematic instruction in phonics is important: Teachers must lead students step by step through a specific sequence of letters and sounds. Kids who learn how to decode words can then apply that skill to more challenging words and ultimately read with fluency. Some kids may not need much help with phonics, especially as they get older, but experts say phonics instruction can be essential for young children and struggling readers “We don’t know how much phonics each kid needs,” said Anders Rasmussen, principal of Wood Road Elementary School in Ballston Spa, New York, who recently led the transformation of his schools’ reading program to a research-based, structured approach. “But we know no kid is hurt by getting too much of it.”

How should your child’s school teach reading?

Timothy Shanahan, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an expert on reading instruction, said phonics are important in kindergarten through second grade and phonemic awareness should be explicitly taught in kindergarten and first grade. This view has been underscored by experts in recent years as the debate over reading instruction has intensified. But teaching kids how to read should include more than phonics, said Shanahan. They should also be exposed to oral reading, reading comprehension and writing.

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Wiley Blevins, an author and expert on phonics, said a good test parents can use to determine whether a child is receiving research-based reading instruction is to ask their child’s teacher how reading is taught. “They should be able to tell you something more than ‘by reading lots of books’ and ‘developing a love of reading.’ ” Blevins said. Along with time dedicated to teaching phonics, Blevins said children should participate in read-alouds with their teacher to build vocabulary and content knowledge. “These read-alouds must involve interactive conversations to engage students in thinking about the content and using the vocabulary,” he said. “Too often, when time is limited, the daily read-alouds are the first thing left out of the reading time. We undervalue its impact on reading growth and must change that.”

Rasmussen’s school uses a structured approach: Children receive lessons in phonemic awareness, phonics, pre-writing and writing, vocabulary and repeated readings. Research shows this type of “systematic and intensive” approach in several aspects of literacy can turn children who struggle to read into average or above-average readers.

What should schools avoid when teaching reading?

Educators and experts say kids should be encouraged to sound out words, instead of guessing. “We really want to make sure that no kid is guessing,” Rasmussen said. “You really want … your own kid sounding out words and blending words from the earliest level on.” That means children are not told to guess an unfamiliar word by looking at a picture in the book, for example. As children encounter more challenging texts in later grades, avoiding reliance on visual cues also supports fluent reading. “When they get to ninth grade and they have to read “Of Mice and Men,” there are no picture cues,” Rasmussen said.

Related: Teacher Voice: We need phonics, along with other supports, for reading

Blevins and Shanahan caution against organizing books by different reading levels and keeping students at one level until they read with enough fluency to move up to the next level. Although many people may think keeping students at one level will help prevent them from getting frustrated and discouraged by difficult texts, research shows that students actually learn more when they are challenged by reading materials.

Blevins said reliance on “leveled books” can contribute to “a bad habit in readers.” Because students can’t sound out many of the words, they rely on memorizing repeated words and sentence patterns, or on using picture clues to guess words. Rasmussen said making kids stick with one reading level — and, especially, consistently giving some kids texts that are below grade level, rather than giving them supports to bring them to grade level — can also lead to larger gaps in reading ability.

How do I know if a reading curriculum is effective?

Some reading curricula cover more aspects of literacy than others. While almost all programs have some research-based components, the structure of a program can make a big difference, said Rasmussen. Watching children read is the best way to tell if they are receiving proper instruction — explicit, systematic instruction in phonics to establish a foundation for reading, coupled with the use of grade-level texts, offered to all kids.

Parents who are curious about what’s included in the curriculum in their child’s classroom can find sources online, like a chart included in an article by which summarizes the various aspects of literacy, including phonics, writing and comprehension strategies, in some of the most popular reading curricula.

Blevins also suggested some questions parents can ask their child’s teacher:

  • What is your phonics scope and sequence?

“If research-based, the curriculum must have a clearly defined phonics scope and sequence that serves as the spine of the instruction.” Blevins said.

  • Do you have decodable readers (short books with words composed of the letters and sounds students are learning) to practice phonics?

“If no decodable or phonics readers are used, students are unlikely to get the amount of practice and application to get to mastery so they can then transfer these skills to all reading and writing experiences,” Blevins said. “If teachers say they are using leveled books, ask how many words can students sound out based on the phonics skills (teachers) have taught … Can these words be fully sounded out based on the phonics skills you taught or are children only using pieces of the word? They should be fully sounding out the words — not using just the first or first and last letters and guessing at the rest.”

  • What are you doing to build students’ vocabulary and background knowledge? How frequent is this instruction? How much time is spent each day doing this?

“It should be a lot,” Blevins said, “and much of it happens during read-alouds, especially informational texts, and science and social studies lessons.”

  • Is the research used to support your reading curriculum just about the actual materials, or does it draw from a larger body of research on how children learn to read? How does it connect to the science of reading?

Teachers should be able to answer these questions, said Blevins.

What should I do if my child isn’t progressing in reading?

When a child isn’t progressing, Blevins said, the key is to find out why. Is it a learning challenge or is your child a curriculum casualty? This is a tough one.” Blevins suggested that parents of kindergarteners and first graders ask their child’s school to test the child’s phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency.

Parents of older children should ask for a test of vocabulary. “These tests will locate some underlying issues as to why your child is struggling reading and understanding what they read,” Blevins said. “Once underlying issues are found, they can be systematically addressed.”

“We don’t know how much phonics each kid needs. But we know no kid is hurt by getting too much of it.”

Anders Rasmussen, principal of Wood Road Elementary School in Ballston Spa, New York

Rasmussen recommended parents work with their school if they are concerned about their children’s progress. By sitting and reading with their children, parents can see the kind of literacy instruction the kids are receiving. If children are trying to guess based on pictures, parents can talk to teachers about increasing phonics instruction.

“Teachers aren’t there doing necessarily bad things or disadvantaging kids purposefully or willfully,” Rasmussen said. “You have many great reading teachers using some effective strategies and some ineffective strategies.”

What can parents do at home to help their children learn to read?

Parents want to help their kids learn how to read but don’t want to push them to the point where they hate reading. “Parents at home can fall into the trap of thinking this is about drilling their kid,” said Cindy Jiban, a former educator and current principal academic lead at NWEA, a research-based non-profit focused on assessments and professional learning opportunities. “This is unfortunate,” Jiban said. “It sets up a parent-child interaction that makes it, ‘Ugh, there’s this thing that’s not fun. ’” Instead, Jiban advises making decoding playful. Here are some ideas:

  • Challenge kids to find everything in the house that starts with a specific sound.
  • Stretch out one word in a sentence. Ask your child to “pass the salt” but say the individual sounds in the word “salt” instead of the word itself.
  • Ask your child to figure out what every family member’s name would be if it started with a “b” sound.
  • Sing that annoying “Banana fana fo fanna song.” Jiban said that kind of playful activity can actually help a kid think about the sounds that correspond with letters even if they’re not looking at a letter right in front of them.
  • Read your child’s favorite book over and over again. For books that children know well, Jiban suggests that children use their finger to follow along as each word is read. Parents can do the same, or come up with another strategy to help kids follow which words they’re reading on a page.

Giving a child diverse experiences that seem to have nothing to do with reading can also help a child’s reading ability. By having a variety of experiences, Rasmussen said, children will be able to apply their own knowledge to better comprehend texts about various topics.

This story about teaching children to read was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for Hechinger’s newsletter.

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The Complete Guide For Families

Kindergarten reading is an exciting beginning to your child’s lifelong relationship with literature and language. HOMER is here with the complete guide of what to expect, how to help, and how to have fun during this new adventure!

Goals For Kindergarten Reading

There are several reading skills your child will be introduced to during kindergarten. Let’s take a look!

1) Phonological And Phonemic Awareness

The biggest thing that will influence your child’s reading success in the future is their ability to navigate phonological and phonemic awareness.

They’ll learn how to manipulate and play with sounds and words through these two avenues. They’ll work on isolating individual sounds in words, recognizing and blending syllables, matching letter sounds to the alphabet, and so much more!

2) Print And Book Awareness

Print awareness includes things like knowing that print is read from left to right and top to bottom, that words are made up of individual letters, and that words are separated by spaces.

Developing book awareness skills means your child will understand how to navigate a table of contents, where to identify the author’s name, book title, and page numbers inside of a book.

Knowing these things will help your child know where to go in a book if they need a little bit of extra guidance or context! Plus, it will teach them what roles these little bits of information play in the formation of a story.

Along with recognizing letters and where to find information, your child’s print and book awareness skills will expand to include punctuation. Over time, they will learn the emotional nuances behind periods, exclamation points, and question marks.

They’ll also learn how to recognize common types of text, such as poems, stories, and more.

3) CVC Words And Letter-Sound Recognition

Your child will start by learning how to associate letter sounds with their respective letters. This is what we call letter-sound recognition!

Once they establish a consistent association between letters and their sounds, they’ll be ready to move on to learning how to read and spell simple consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words.

This includes words like bat, dog, leg, and so on. These words are easier for children to start with because they have just three phonetically regular sounds to blend together.

4) Recognizing Sight Words

By the end of kindergarten, your child will begin to consistently recognize many basic words by “sight.”

Sight words are words that are often more difficult to decode. This is because many of them don’t follow typical phonetic rules — they look a little bit different than how they sound.

Some sight words are phonetically regular, but the phonetic rule is too advanced for a beginning reader. These types of words will inform your child’s reading skills and make reading much easier!

Examples of sight words include:

  • The
  • Was
  • Are
  • Bread
  • Again
  • Have
  • What

And many more!

5) Beginning To Read

Now that your child has begun to master the other skills we’ve mentioned, they will be ready to launch into reading for the first time! With lots of support from you, of course.

They’ll use their skills with letter-sound correspondence, print awareness, and CVC words to make their way through simple texts. They’ll demonstrate a broad understanding of storylines and illustrations that support the events in a story.

Their comprehension levels will remain pretty straightforward at this stage, but they’ll be able to ask and answer simple questions about the key things they read (or saw in pictures). They will also be able to retell the most important events!

Most kindergarteners won’t be able to analyze the subtler side of stories, like themes or metaphors. But talking with them about the big ideas is a wonderful way to prime their brains for those conversations as they get older!

Kindergarten Reading Practice At Home

Here are some small, effective ways to make reading acquisition a little easier and develop your child’s love of reading from home!

Work On Mastering The Alphabet

It sounds so simple, but mastering the alphabet will give your child a huge leg-up when it comes to kindergarten reading.

Consistently and correctly recognizing letters means your child will have an easier time sounding out new words and memorizing familiar ones! They should be able to differentiate between upper and lower case letters, too.

Specifically, mastering the alphabet, especially linking letters to sounds, directly contributes to their success with sight words and reading, as well as spelling CVC words (they have to recognize the alphabet to be able to spell!).

You can help your child master the alphabet by playing letter recognition games, like making letters out of PlayDoh or creating personalized alphabet cards.

Overall, this is a great step to round out the foundations of their kindergarten reading skills!

Reread Books

You and your child may have played out this scene before: they stroll over to the bookshelf and pick out the same book they’ve read three nights in a row with you. Should you be worried?

Absolutely not! Rereading books is actually a great tip for strengthening your kindergartener’s reading skills.

Rereading is wonderful practice and strengthens your child’s vocabulary. Rather than learning a word once and not revisiting it, they can familiarize themselves with new words and gradually reinforce how to use them.

This means you’re supporting their efforts to recognize words more consistently, as well as developing their print and book awareness!

Additionally, rereading allows your child to dive a little deeper into a book. Each time, they will learn and notice more about the characters, their motivations, and how their actions lead to certain results.

Play Sight Word Games

Learning and reading are not just for the classroom!

There are plenty of easy and effective sight word games you can play at home. Your child won’t even realize that in the midst of all the fun, they’re getting a little bit smarter, too!

While we have lots of sight word game options for your family to explore, it’s also easy to whip up a quick game at home. Sight word games are easily transferable to board games you may already have in your house, like Twister, Bingo, or Jenga.

Give Your Emerging Reader Control

Allowing your child a little bit of liberty when it comes to reading can be a great confidence booster.

Plus, when they feel like they have some control over their own reading journey, it can incentivize them to participate more. This can be incorporated into your routine in little ways.

You could let them choose what book you read together (remember rereading is OK, too!). You could also practice shared reading, allowing them to read small bite-sized words at the beginning or end of sentences.

Taking it one step at a time will help them feel comfortable and confident when it comes to reading, and they’ll be even more excited to develop their skills so they can eventually read on their own!

This carries over into life outside of books, too. Showing your child the power of reading can include pointing out signs, labels, or other writing in their environment.

Act Out The Story

There’s no rule that says you have to sit down and snuggle to read a book (though we’re certainly not complaining about that method). If you want to burn some energy and get moving, you and your child can act out the events in a story as they’re happening.

Working together to portray what’s happening in a book as you read can help your child focus and dive deeper into the story, as well as give them visual context for what’s being read.

It sets a strong foundation for their recall skills; when they retell the events (or revisit the story at a later time), they’ll be thinking about all the fun, silly ways you two acted out the story together.

You can use this time to work on their print and book awareness skills, too. If they ever have a question about the book, you two can search together, noting helpful keys like the table of contents or the index to find the answer!

Kindergarten Reading For Future Success

You’ve made it! You now have the basics of what you need to know about kindergarten reading.

Through developing their phonological and phonemic awareness skills, print and book awareness, letter-sound recognition, and sight word vocabulary, your child will be ready to begin their independent reading journey in no time!

HOMER is here to show you and your child that reading and playing do intersect. In fact, we think they’re better together!

That’s why our Learn & Grow App is always packed with personalized activities for your child: to help them succeed in kindergarten reading and beyond!

We hope this article not only gave you some ideas of how to help your child succeed at home, but also how to nourish their growing love of reading and learning, too.



Home \ Library

Type of book: manual

Author: Usova A.P.

Publisher: M.: Prosveshchenie , 1981.- 176 p., ill.

Category: Preschoolers

Keywords: kindergarten

This book, which is the result of many years of studying the problems of preschool didactics, discusses important questions about the role of learning in the educational process, characterizes the child's educational activity and the features of its formation, and reveals the process of learning in the classroom.

See also:


  • Nursery education and training program
    Ed. M.A. Vasilyeva, V.V. Gerbovoy, T.S. Komarova M .: Mosaic-Synthesis, 2005. - 208 p.
  • Kindergarten Education Program
    Kindergarten Education Program.— 9th ed., Rev. - M.: Enlightenment, 1982.— 160 p.0042 M.: New school, 1995. - 64 p.
  • Development: Next Generation Program for Preschool Education. Junior group
    M .: Gnom i D , 1999. - 88 p. / Ed. O.M. Dyachenko.
  • Development: Next Generation Program for Preschool Education. Preparatory group for school
    M .: Gnome and D, 1999.-80s. / Ed. O.M. Dyachenko
  • Development: New generation program for preschool educational institutions. Middle group
    M.: Gnom i D, 1999.-72 s / Ed. O.M. Dyachenko.
  • Development: Next Generation Program for Preschool Education. Senior group
    M.: Gnom i D, 2000-96 p. / Ed. O.M. Dyachenko
  • Modern educational programs for preschool institutions
    M .: Publishing Center "Academy", 1999. - 344 p. / Ed. Erofeeva T.I.

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Electronic versions of the works are intended for use in educational and scientific purposes.

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Read online "Methodological recommendations for the "Program of education and training in kindergarten"" - Team of authors - RuLit

Edited by V. V. Gerbova, T. S. Komarova

Guidelines for the "Programme of education and training in kindergarten"


A. V. Antonova, Doctor of Pedagogy

N A. Arapova-Piskareva

N. E. Veraksa, Doctor of Psychology

A. N. Verax

B. V. GERBOVA, Candidate of pedagogical sciences

N.F. Gubanova, Candidate of pedagogical sciences

O. V. Dybin, Doctor of Pedagogical Sciences

222 M. B. Zatsepina, Doctor of Pedagogy

T. S. Komarova, Doctor of Pedagogy

L. V. Kutsakova

V. I. Petrova, Doctor of Pedagogy

O. A. Solomennikova, Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences

E. Ya. Stepanenkova, Ph.D. and an updated version of the guidelines for the "Program of education and training in kindergarten" edited by M. A. Vasilyeva, V. V. Gerbova, T. S. Komarova (M.: Mozaika-Sintez, 2006). In this edition, the sections "Basic patterns of mental development of children" and "Game activity" have been completely revised.

The sections of the manual correspond to the sections of the Program and reveal the peculiarities of working with children in the implementation of the educational tasks set in it.

Naturally, in short guidelines it is difficult to fully describe the system of work with children of early and preschool age, therefore, after this book, manuals will be published to help the educator in managing various types of children's activities, to ensure the timely and full development of the child at each age stage of his life.

We would like to draw the attention of practitioners to some provisions, the consideration of which will make the life of a separate group more joyful, more efficient work of a preschool institution as a whole.

Guidelines are based on the principles of integration, visibility, individual approach to the child, which can be traced in the content of all sections of the program. The program objectives are also formulated taking into account the principles of cultural conformity and environmental conformity.

Successful implementation of the "Program" in any preschool institution requires coherence in the work of the teaching staff, mutual respect and mutual assistance, optimism and a culture of communication. Children should be brought up in an atmosphere of goodwill, respectful attitude to their requests and needs; to know that they are loved (one and all individually) and sincerely rejoice in their successes and achievements.

Preschool is a living creative union of adults and children. Children should actively participate in the design of their group, halls, corridors, prepare congratulations and gifts for adults on public holidays, anniversaries of the institution, hometown (village), employees for significant events in their lives (the beloved teacher got married, the music director got an apartment and etc.).

It is good if the child's return to the group (for example, after an illness) will be noticed by adults, and on birthdays the children will receive congratulations from their peers, teachers of their group and other kindergarten workers.

Pre-school institution should be decorated with children's work. It is important that kindergarten becomes a second home for children. Therefore, an adult must constantly strive to understand the mood and well-being of each pupil, to understand what worries him. Care must be taken to ensure that the group has an atmosphere of goodwill, comfort, the desire of children to help each other.

Within the framework of the humanistic concept of preschool education, the “Program” provides for maximum assistance in the formation of the child as a person, the development of children's activity in educational and non-educational activities.

Learn more