The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

What if my child isn’t reading? Research-based tips to nurture basic reading skills.


picture of preschool girl showing her completed activity bookWithout a doubt, a child’s ability to read proficiently and fluently has proven to be an indicator of success in school. Research shows that “Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child’s educational development.“ (Annie E. Casey Foundation; KIDS COUNT Special Report.)

But what if your preschooler or kindergartener is not showing an interest in reading? Don’t panic! You can help your child learn to read by nurturing basic skills—which are the building blocks of reading—and modeling your excitement for reading. Here are a few ideas:

Create language-rich experiences

Language development is a fluid relationship between listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Your everyday interactions can help foster these pre-literacy skills:

  • Read stories aloud and ask your child questions about what you read, such as “What do you think will happen next?”
  • Point out pictures and ask your child about what he/she sees in the picture.
  • Build vocabulary by talking about new words or using magnetic alphabet letters for a “word a day” on a refrigerator or magnetic board.
  • Read aloud signs, billboards, maps, menus, and labels you see while on a walk, at the store, at a restaurant, or at home.

Focus on phonics—rhyming, blending, and segmenting

Research shows that “A student’s skill in phonological awareness at school entry is the strongest single indicator or reading success—or failure.” (Adams 1990; Stanovich, 1986) Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.13.17 AM

  • Show your child that letters have a symbol and a sound. Making alphabet puppets is a fun way to build alphabet knowledge, such as this downloadable activity: “Callie, the Cat” from Evan-Moor’s Alphabet Puppets.
  • Model for your child how sounds are blended to form a word by reading poems and rhyming stories and singing songs and chants.
  • Try to emphasize the sounds that form a word, such as annunciating “back” and “pack” for “backpack.” Children will recognize and listen for beginning and ending sounds of words.

Provide opportunities for practicing fine motor skills and letter formation

DIY fine motor activity from Teach Me Mommy blog

DIY fine motor activity from Teach me Mommy blog

Hands-on activities help children build good muscle control, which is important to handwriting. Provide activities such as:

  • Cutting paper to create a bookmark or mosaic
  • Building with Legos
  • Tracing letters in sand or uncooked rice
  • Stringing beads on a pipe cleaner
  • Making shapes using playdough or molding clay
  • Tracing dots that spell the letters of their name (use a sharpie and graph paper to spell out your child’s name, similar to a dot-to-dot puzzle)
  • Coloring
  • Placing pom poms in egg cartons, paper tubes, or other small containers

Model reading

In addition to picture books, also consider reading chapter books aloud to your child. Reading chapter books aloud is not only engaging, but also provides experiences with vocabulary that will boost your child’s ability to read the same words in the future.

As a kindergartener, my son did not show any interest in reading, yet he was enthralled with the magical world of Harry Potter. We read to him before bed (skipping the scary parts) and I’m convinced that the strong desire to read Harry Potter on his own is what eventually motivated him to read!

Additional preschool and kindergarten resources from Evan-Moor:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.21.22 AM50 Little Stories

At-Home Tutor: Reading and Language

Basic Phonics Skills

Jumbo Fun with the Alphabet

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.18.45 AMLearning Line series

Never-Bored Kid activity books

Skill Sharpeners: Reading



Contributing Writer

Image of Theresa WoolerTheresa Wooler has more than 10 years’ experience in K–6 classrooms as a parent volunteer, has taught high school English, and is currently involved in education through Evan-Moor’s marketing communications team.

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