3 strategies for teaching your child to read on the go

That title should really say ‘3 strategies for supporting your child with learning to read on the go’ – but that’s super long and not at all catchy, so here we are.

Helping your child with their reading can feel like a Big Job – and that’s fair enough because they have a lot to learn before they’ll be reading like we read.

That’s okay though, because we have to start somewhere – and I bet you’ve taught them to do plenty of things before that were hard.

Walking? Eating with cutlery? No? Still working on that? So are we…

In a hurry? You can download a free pdf of this guide here>>

You can teach your child to read

But the point is that, despite what adverts for education apps try to tell you, you can do this.

You can be the one to support your child with their reading without a tutor or a tablet in sight.

If they like playing reading games on the tablet, that’s great, though.

There’s nothing wrong with on line learning.

I’m just against feeding parents the idea that they NEED the apps because they’re not capable by themselves.

You’re capable – you just might need some strategies and some background on how learning to read works – which you can find in this video below if you like.

But reading’s so time consuming

Yeah, it can be.

If you feel like you need to have a lesson or Insta-perfect activity prepared or do X number of worksheets per day, it can definitely get time consuming.

But I don’t do that.

When I taught reading in school, I had a bunch of resources (dry wipe boards, magnetic letters, letter tiles, letter beads) and we used them over and over in different ways.

We do some of that now at home, though to be honest with you, my son’s tired after school and whatever activity he agrees to is usually so I’ll let him play Mathletics on the Ipad after.

Every now and then I’ll make or buy a new resource (like our toilet roll skittles).

teach child numbers

As you can see, we use them in different ways – less work, more learning.

But we also do on-the-go learning and that’s what this post’s really about.

What’s on-the-go learning?

I’m talking about any kind of learning activity that you can do with your child without needing to sit down at a table.

It could be asking your child to tell you which supermarket aisle has the fish by reading a sign.

Or talking about their favourite character in Pokemon or whatever they’re into right now.

Or recognising sounds and words they know in the world around them.

There are 3 main ways we do this at home and we’re going to look at them all.

1 Enriching what you do already

Before I go any further, if you prefer to watch instead of reading, this video will give you the same information as this post.

So what ARE you doing already?

Bedtime stories? I bet you do those.

And you’ve probably heard that reading to your kids regularly makes it more likely they’ll be successful in school – but you can build on that without a lot of effort.

Read more books – read when it’s not bedtime and you’re not all tired – and talk about what you read.

Talk about what happens in the stories you read and ask your kids questions.

This is partly about checking that they understand the story – because reading’s nothing without comprehension – and partly about encouraging them to be creative and to have opinions and express them.

  • What’s happening on this page?
  • Who’s that over there behind the tree?
  • Who’s your favourite character?
  • Why do you like them so much?
  • Did anything surprise you about the story?
  • Can you think of another way it could’ve ended?

And remember that you don’t need to carve out special time for these talks.

Talk at dinner time or in the car – ask them about their favourite TV show instead of a book if that helps to get them talking.

(You’ll find more questions like these in my Story Time Questions pdf – it’s in my resource library and if you sign up below for the pdf of this guide, you’ll get access to that too. )

But I bet you’re doing more than just reading stories.

Getting phonics into story time

But as well as working on comprehension, you can get a bit of phonics in there too when you’re reading the bedtime story.

A couple of times as you read, ask your child to find something on the page – a word or a sound, depending where they’re at with reading.

“Can you find ‘b’ on this page?”

“How many c’s are there in this line?”

“Can you find ‘pig’?”

“Where does it say ‘the’? Can you find it again anywhere else?”

You’ll be able to tell from how your child responds when they’re had enough.

Some kids like to race or try to beat their score – or you – so get some competition in there if you like.

It’s surprising how much the earliest readers will do willingly when it’s a game.

But what else apart from story books?

You probably have notebooks and other places for your children to draw and scribble and practise their writing (which goes hand-in-hand with reading) so let’s think about those things next.

They come under your environment.

2 Making your home reading friendly

This might sound like a lot of work but it’s probably the easiest bit.

Have you seen those cute Ikea shelves? The cube ones that people set up in beautifully minimalist Montessori style?

Guess what?

You don’t need to do that.

If you’d like pretty shelves with wooden rainbows and pretty wooden puzzles on, that’s fine – go for it.

I would love my house to look like that but the truth is I don’t even hoover enough so it’s not going to happen.

But, I try to make sure that around our imperfect and usually messy home there are things that will support learning to read.

What sort of things help kids learn to read?

…you might wonder.

Things that they can find and choose to play with – it could be books but there are other options too.

I like to leave nice books where the kids will find them and choose to pick them up and look at them.

That means that they have to be nice – because they’re competing with all the toys and TV and maybe tablet too for your child’s attention.

So pick pretty books if you have them – preferably a hardback because you can stand those up and make them more obvious – and not too many or it’ll be easier to watch TV than make a choice.

Books about space, wild animals and dinosaurs work well.

Try leaving them in the spaces they spend most time – like the sofa or the breakfast table – or even the floor.

That’s it.

You don’t need to chase them over to look or make a big deal of it – just wait and see if they take a look.

(If you can’t not encourage them, just start reading the book yourself and you’ll probably have a nosy kid in your lap in thirty seconds seeing what you’re up to.)

On the go reading at home – without books

So what else is good for practising reading at home, apart from books?

  • Alphabet puzzles.
  • Alphabet snap cards.
  • Letter tiles or beads if you have them.
  • Letter stampers to stamp out their name.
  • Letter cutters for the playdough or kinetic sand.

Now, I wouldn’t leave all these out at once because there’s only so much chaos I can handle without turning into a much meaner mum than I’m ok with being.

So pick one and leave it available on a table where they’ll see it and play with it.

Related – 10+ fun ways to teach your child to recognise letters and sounds >>

Magnetic and foam letters

You can also leave letters and words around for your kids to find – magnetic letters on the fridge are great once you’re sure no one will stick them in their mouth.

I like to leave words for my son to find and read – the sillier the better. Bum is a favourite just now.

It doesn’t have to be the fridge – use a magnetic board or metal baking sheet and you can leave magnetic letters in the living room or even take them out in the car if they’re keen.

At bathtime, those foam letters that stick to the side of the bath do the same job – and you can use them in a few ways.

  • just throw them in and see what your child does
  • make words and see if they can read them
  • make nonsense words and see if they can read those – and notice that they aren’t real words (fim, pag and mib are nonsense words).
  • ask them to find a certain letter or sort the letters out so all the b’s are together and all the m’s etc
  • encourage your kiddo to make words of their own or to spell out words that you give them

You might find – like I do – that your child just wants to play in the bath and isn’t interested in anything except maybe making you read out 20 letter long nonsense words that they create for you.

I recommend going with it. By bath time they’re probably tired and any words they make or read are a bonus.

You can always try using the foam letters in a bucket of water or old baby bath on a nice day – instead of at bathtime.

Out and about reading practice

If you’d like to take your child’s reading out and about with you, it’s easy to do – especially for children who’re at the beginning of their reading journey.

Here are a few ways to practise reading and phonics on the go:

  • read the letters on car number plates (great for practising capital letters)
  • think of a word that starts with each letter that you see (so if they read G, they might say ‘gran’).
  • read the sounds on street signs – and then the whole words as they get better at reading
  • read signs in the supermarket – they’re usually very big and not too wordy
  • let your child make the shopping list (if you have time – you might need to help) and then read it to find the right things
  • see how many times they can find a particular word or letter during a whole journey
  • ask them to spot the letters of a word (so for ‘bed’ they’d have to find b, e and d – probably in different places)
  • play hangman (this is especially great when you’re waiting for food in a restaurant). You don’t need to hang anyone – and you can start as soon as your child can read little words. It’ll be obvious if they’re not ready. Start simple with 3 letter words – just draw three little lines and ask them to guess the letters. Put one or two in as clues if you like.

Give these ideas a try and let me know how you get on.

Do you have any ideas of your own? Share them in the comments.

And if you’d like the free pdf version, simply sign up below.

on the go reading

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