25 Effective Ways to Teach Reading to Beginners

The Butterfly Teacher is thrilled to welcome guest writer Sophia Sanchez, an ESL instructor who has extensive knowledge about language development. In this post, she shares 25 practical and effective ways to teach reading to beginners. Get your pen and paper ready…there are tons of teaching tips below!

*This post contains affiliate links to Amazon for your convenience. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which do not cost any extra for you. Please see the full disclosure here.*

How Do You Teach Reading Effectively?

Reading is a complex exercise.

We have to teach kids to read the written word and to build vocabulary simultaneously.

On top of all this, as students grow, they need to master more complex reading skills, such as inferencing.

So what are the best reading strategies that teachers and parents need to teach? And HOW do you teach them?

To best answer these questions, you must approach reading instruction based on your students/child’s developmental level:

  • Early / Beginning Reader
  • Emergent Reader
  • Advanced Reader

You will be able to teach reading more effectively when you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each developmental level and cater to those.

Tanya–The Butterfly Teacher, shares reading comprehension teaching tips for advanced readers, so in this post, I will share tips for early and beginning readers.

Let’s jump right in!

Vocabulary-Building Strategies for Early Readers

A highly effective way to teach reading to beginners is to help them build extensive background knowledge and vocabulary skills.

As you teach early readers more vocabulary, make sure the learning is playful, because most kids learn best via play!

  • 1–Build Their Oral Vocabulary Through Conversation:
    Encourage children to frequently interact verbally with you and others. More conversation will build on the vocabulary they may already know.
  • 2–Combine Pictures with Vocabulary Words & Actions:
    For example, put up a poster outside your class with signage for shaking hands, hugging, greeting with a bow/folded hands, or just smiling, and get the kids to point at how they want to be greeted. Encourage the kids to say the words aloud and then act them out.
  • 3–Play Games to Identify Everyday Items:
    Boring teaching will make reading seem like a chore! Make learning to read more fun with games that help children build vocabulary.

    As children grow more proficient and confident pronouncing words for things like vegetables, fruits, simple objects, colors, plants, actions such as mowing, sweeping, washing, drying, etc.–they are forming the building blocks for strong reading fluency.

Simple Ways to Teach Pre-Literacy Skills

The vocabulary word building tips from above help beginning readers develop more background knowledge that influences their reading.

Here are simple but effective ways to teach reading to beginners who need more pre-literacy skills.

Wordless books or simple word books such as this book set help early readers build essential vocabulary skills. Click HERE or the image to learn more. (Amazon affiliate link)
  • 5–Start a Story Prompt:
    Use flash cards or picture books to begin a make-believe story. Then allow your students/kids to create the next part or line of the story you’ve started. This helps them build the foundation for sequencing in reading.
  • 6–Read Simple Rebus Readers:
    These fun books help beginning readers answer your story prompts, identify sight words, and build vocabulary–which are all important pre-literacy skills.

What is the Main Difference Between Alphabetic Principle & Phonemic Awareness?

Let’s pause here to quickly dive into an important topic that relates to beginning readers.

Alphabetic understanding vs. letter-sound relationships!

What in the world is alphabetic principle and how is it different from phonemic awareness?

Many people use the words “alphabetic principle” interchangeably with “phonics.” It relates to letter-symbol relationships and spoken words.

Phonemic awareness involves breaking word parts down to isolate and identify specific sounds or phonemes.

To effectively teach reading to beginners, parents and teachers must use different teaching strategies for these two reading skills!

Let’s continue with specific examples

Easy Ways to Teach Alphabetic Principle

  • 7–Introduce Single Letters and Their Sound:
    English is not a phonetic language, but language learning is a lot about listening and ears like sounds. Confusion can set in but reducing pace and increasing fun games for practice can help.
  • 8–Get Kids to Say Words Which Start With That Sound:
    This can be combined with the same teaching strategies that you use to teach vocabulary words. Put pictures with words next to everyday items. Emphasize the sound that initial letter makes.
  • 9–Give Sounds for Single Vowels:
    Like ‘e’ for egg
  • 10–Give Sounds for Single Consonants:
    Like ‘h’ for hut
Tactile letter activities like this one help beginning readers build letter recognition and phonemic awareness. Click HERE or the image for more details. (Amazon affiliate link)
  • 11–Do Kinesthetic & Tactile Activities to Learn Letters:
    Write letters in the sand or in shaving cream. Use magnetic letters, ropes, and other items that beginning readers can touch as a fun way to build letter recognition.
  • 12–Identify Letters among other letters (like a design:)
    Before kids can identify letters as letters, they can play at spotting them. E.g Write ‘egg’ on the board with space in between. Now hold up the letter ‘e’ and ask the kids to spot it in what’s written. Add more words on the board which include ‘e’, and ask them to spot all the occurrences.
  • 13–Complete Letter Crafts Decorating Objects Which Start With That Letter

Ideas for Helping Beginning Readers Build Phonological Awareness

  • 14–Play Phonological Awareness Games:
    Pair your students in two teams. One team will say words and the other team has to say a word with the sound it ends on

    For example: one team may say the word “red.” The other team will need to say a word like “dog” since the word red ends with “d.”

    This type of game can be difficult for some kids, so feel free to modify it with flashcards, pictures, or other ways to assist kids. If it’s too frustrating for them, they will not feel confident to play, which will lead to possible tantrums.
  • 15–Get Kids to Call Out Rhyming Words With You
  • 16–Form Various Words With The Same Set of Sounds
  • 17–Play Rhyming Games With Nonsense Words:
    Kids love gibberish! Plus, using nonsense words heightens their awareness of word sounds and word parts.
  • 18–Try basic tongue twisters: (you will have kids rolling in laughter!)
    She sells sea shells on the sea shore, but the shells she sells are not the real sea shells’. It’s better to start with the first four words, and slowly add the rest meaningfully in steps, or it might turn into a gibberish spewing noisy classroom!

More Effective Ways to Teach Reading to Beginners

As your children/ students advance through pre-literacy skills, alphabetic principle, and phonemic awareness activities, you can effectively teach them more foundational reading strategies like the ones in this section.

  • 19–Start Small with Sight Words
  • 20–Enjoy the rebus world of words:
    Show an image and look at the word. These readers really help kids build nonfiction reading skills too!
Here’s an example of rebus readers that help beginning readers learn sight words, build pre-literacy skills, and build vocabulary. Click HERE for the image to learn more.
(Amazon affiliate link)
  • 21–Use a picture and break what it’s called into sounds/phonemes (for starters, use easily identified animals like cat, bat, etc.) Sounds outnumber the letters in the alphabet, so practice-practice-practice
  • 22–Work with small words with fewer sounds and then go to longer words
  • 23–Play games to change the order to form new words (do build gibberish words, don’t be afraid)
  • 24–Introduce syllabification if your class is ready
  • 25–Introduce onomatopoeia – words that mimic the sound of the object

What’s the Absolute Best Way to Teach Children to Read?

Kids learn at their own pace.

As no two kids are alike, teachers really have to individually nurture each child on their reading journey. So there’s no ONE absolute best way to teach reading to every single child.

This post features lots of effective ways to teach reading to beginners so that you have more than one strategy to try.

Here Are More Helpful Posts on Reading Instruction For You:

Here’s hoping for wonderful journeys in the world of reading!

Author Bio: Sophia is a newbie online ESL/EFL instructor. She is a passionate educator and blogs about education on her personal blog. She found her true calling — teaching — while she was juggling writing and a 9-5 desk job.

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