Homeschooling Language Arts

Tools to Teach Preschoolers and Kindergarteners to Read

The Tornado displaying a love of books at an early age.
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She’s reading! That’s right; my daughter began reading about a month ago and it has opened up a whole new world for us as a family. Seriously, I finally feel like we can actually do this homeschooling thing now!

Truth be told, I have known that she could read longer than she has known. She mastered her phonics sounds by the time she was three and by the time she was four she had a pretty impressive bank of sight words. And then I would catch her reading random words but when she realized that I was watching, she would ask for help. By the time she was four-and-a-half, she was reading two-syllable words with ease but without confidence. Finally she admitted to me that she did not want to ready because she did not want to be a big girl. It was enough to tell me to slow down and I pulled back opting to take reading step by step and not rush.

Yet, the thought of teaching my daughter phonics, and yes, it has to be phonics as that whole language, balanced literacy crap is exactly that: crap – sent me into a full-fledged anxiety attack each time I thought about it. My biggest fear was that I would miss some crucial element and ruin any hope of my daughter developing a love of reading and words. Oh, I tell you, it was a dreadful experience – thinking about it that is. I spent a month initially scouring online forums, websites, blogs, educational books for the best resources that I could find and then spent more months research as we used some of the materials I found. And in the hopes of sparring any other homeschooling parents this torture, I present for you my list of the Best Teach Your Child to Read Help for Early Learners.

A word of advice: if you use books with a tons of pictures when your child is ready to start stringing sounds together, cover them up! I’m not kidding! Teaching kids to look at the pictures to help with unfamiliar words creates children who can’t read when pictures are not there. It hinders them in the early years and is a serious headache for the parent and teacher.

*This post has affiliate links. These affiliate links are used only when I have actually used the product and genuinely feel that it is worth the cost because we had success. I am not paid to post this and I take time to research all products extensively before recommending them.

Downloadable For Free:

  1. Progressive Phonics: Beginner Phonics Books: These FREE books teaching common sight words as well as short-vowel sounds. Includes activity pages and handwriting sheets as well. My daughter LOVES these. It’s one of the few things that she wants to do everyday.
  2. Dolch Sight Word Lists: Provides  sight words broken down by age group and allows you to print them as flash cards. You must register for but YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY. Stick with the free version and you can Print flash cards for your child and your child can take “tests” and play games.
  3. Primary readers containing a complete course in phonics by Katharine Emily Sloan – This, I think, is what sent her into reading territory (well, this and cancelling cable). This is a “whole word” primer with a phonics base and done extremely well. Phonics is boring (for many) and this primer allows children to really feel as if they are reading on their own which encourages them to keep going. Be sure to read the introduction before using it. I also recommend New Sloan readers: containing a complete course in phonics. Primer-, Volume 2.
  4. The Holton Primer by Martha A. Holton: for those on a 1st grade level. Fun poems and verse. Not so PC, but great stuff!


  1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: Simple, short, fun lessons. A little tedious at first but it gets better and more interesting. I never did the handwriting part of the lessons because we do handwriting differently.
  2. All About Spelling: Begin teaching spelling the same time you begin teaching reading. It helps. My daughter was able to understand the connection between letters-sounds-words because of this program. We love it.

Ipad Apps Free and Low Cost

  1. Sight Words by Little Speller
  2. Little Reader: teaches 3 and 4-letter words.
  3. Pocket Phonics Lite: teaches letter writing and has word games.
  4. Montessori Crosswords by LEscapadou: We love this. The Tornado loved spelling words and hearing phonetic sounds. We still use it.

Now of course there are tons of other resources, but these are what we use and have found success with! What tools do you use to teach your child to read?


9 replies on “Tools to Teach Preschoolers and Kindergarteners to Read”

This post is really informative! I love all the resources for learning to read. As a former teacher, the advice is spot on. As a parent, though, resources are great, but it has always helped me to have a second pair of eyes, both to give advice and to expose my daughter to different teaching styles. In that department, I’ve had really great experiences with Private School Edge and their tutors. My tutor was trained and experienced in test prep for the ERB and the Gifted and Talented tests, as well as skilled in tutoring to support what I thought my kid needed. Her feedback really helped my own approach to teaching and I saw great results in my daughter’s confidence. There are many ways to learn to read, but having an extra pair of eyes can be a great resource!

That is great that she is reading. I do however disagree that the whole word language approach is crap – I believe in a balanced approach using both and also depending on the child. To me phonics is necessary but much of what they make the children read that is phonetically correct makes almost no sense – they need the sight words to be able to read fluently and read things that make sense. At 4.5 years old my daughter is choosing easy readers for herself to read – while she has been able to read many words since she was a toddler she did not choose to read books by herself. Since doing most of a phonics course with her (I never made her read the phonics sentences just words that fitted the rule I was teaching) she has grown in confidence and can work out words for herself while still having a large sight word vocabulary which leads to faster reading. I like your links and think they are all helpful to teaching reading. While I have Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons, I preferred to use The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading because of the way I taught the phonics rules. Good luck with the kindergarten homeschooling – look forward to hearing more about how it is going.

Thanks for commenting. I agree with the importance of sight words, which definitely should not be discounted. We are mostly on the same page- I just do a lot more phonics work. Phonics is definitely about gaining confidence in reading because it teaches readers to break down words into parts/sounds and to not get overwhelmed by the whole word…

Thanks for the suggestions and I’m heading to your blog to check it out!

I LOVE the pic of her in the pile of books – what a doll! I remember when my oldest was into emptying the bookshelf of its contents and now my youngest is getting there too. To protect my own collection, I ended up getting some cheap tension-mounted curtain rods and putting them across the shelves so that he couldn’t pull the books out and it worked great. I think I shall be getting them back out soon for round two. (Of course, their books, and some of my less precious ones, are fair game – so they still have free access to plenty of books!)

Ooooh, and I’m looking forward to checking out those apps – thanks!

*Edited by Kristina at the request of the commenter.

Thanks Jennifer! This picture is one of the reasons she earned the name the Tornado. And the worse part about it is that the books she pulled down were not actually kid appropriate! She was almost one in that picture (or maybe just one). The tension rods was a great idea; where were you 4 years ago? LOL

The apps are good. I have a few more that I did not add because they cost a bit much, but the ones that I listed are very helpful and fun.

This is great, Kristina. I’ll have to come back when I have more time and look at those other resources. I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with my (then) four-year-old with great success, but we stopped at lesson 70 because it was becoming tedious and he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Now we are just reading early readers and doing a sight word game I made up. But I really haven’t pushed him too hard to read. I just don’t feel there’s any reason to encourage him to read faster than his natural desire to read. I do nudge him and make him do very short lessons with the early readers just so he won’t forget what he has learned. I feel very confident that he’ll continue to grow in his reading skills at his own pace.

Thank for commenting Shelli! Yes, 100 Easy is very tedious but, and I know this is bad, but I am too cheap to not use something I bought. LOL. Seriously.

I agree, there is no need to push, but the former English teacher in me wanted my daughter to love independent reading the way I did so when she showed an interest, I rode that way all the way in! I admit that I was a little obsessed with reading too because I started reading very young (3) and devour every book in sight. Luckily she wanted to learn because I could have damaged her!

I say all this to say, whatever works for your child is the right path to take!

Hey Kristina~Absolutely. Every child is different and the parent will know when they are ready. I’m sure you would have never damaged her. lol I think it may be a little different for boys too. At least MY boys. I just looked at Progressive Phonics and it looks great! I’m hoping my son will like it too! Thanks so much for this list!

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