My 3yr old has been asking us to teach her how to read. She can recognize a decent amount of the alphabet, and picks stuff up pretty quickly (when she wants to.)

We have thought about picking some basic words and teaching sight reading, but we would rather go straight to phonetic reading. Is that possible, or should we stick to sight reading at this age? I have had people tell me (anecdotal at best) that it is a little more difficult for a kid to go from sight reading to phonetic. Is this true? Is there any good material to help out? Is there any good material to help out?

4 Answers 4


The best way to teach a child to read is to read to them alot, which I'm guessing you already do. With my kids, I would work on a different word every night when I'm reading them their bedtime story. I'd pick a word that I thought would come up a lot in the book then spell it out and sound it out with them. Then, every time we got to that word in the book, I would point to it and let them read it.

There's lots of other techniques you could use as well, this is just one that I liked doing.

  • "The best way to teach a child to read is to read to them alot" — not at all. The best way to teach a child to read is to have him read out loud and write.
    – Rusty Core
    Sep 7, 2020 at 22:37
  • @RustyCore My oldest just graduated as valedictorian. She scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. My younger two are on similar tracks. They were all reading chapter books before they started kindergarten. I have no idea how many hundreds or thousands of books they've each read in their lives. I think my method works okay.
    – Kevin
    Sep 8, 2020 at 16:22

English primary schools are expected to use Synthetic Phonics. There is also Analytic Phonics. With synthetic phonics children will learn the sounds of letters and letter groups, and then blend these sounds to make words. With analytic phonics children will learn whole words and then break the words down into their sounds.

There's some evidence that children taught with synthetic phonics have better reading outcomes; they learn to read a bit earlier, they have better comprehension, they are more advanced readers than children taught using other methods.

So, if you're in the UK, you could try the BBC tv programme Alphablocks (not sure if you want a three year old to watch TV yet!)


(May not work outside UK??)

  • I would not call Analytic Phonics phonics at all. Phonics must start with letters and sounds and blending, not with memorizing words as pictures and maybe later decomposing them into letter-sounds. Rudolph Flesch was very animated about that.
    – Rusty Core
    Sep 7, 2020 at 22:35

Don't discount the importance of picture books. The best ones have few words with clear connections to the pictures, and have illustrations that are interesting enough for repeated read-throughs.

Reading early isn't as important as a child learning their alphabet, and learning to decipher stories and timelines, or picking up colors and shapes. If a child is ready to read early, trust me, there's no force in the world that will keep them from doing so. If they aren't, you simply have to wait.


When my daughter was two (she is now 30) I used a method called "teaching your baby to read". It began with sight words, "mommy, daddy, and, the, a" etc and built from there. She has always loved reading and was at a third grade level when she began kindergarten. There was a book by the above name and also you could purchase the sight words already made for you, or as I did, you could create your own. My grandson is now two and I am making sight words for him to use and it is going well. We also include some phonics. For example he knows all is all so we add the b and he sounds out ball, add the c and it is call, etc. We do groups of these at a time. I also agree that reading to your child and pointing to the words you want them to read to you is also very beneficial. Best of luck to you.

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