Growing Bookworms: Teaching your child to read

Growing bookworks Jan 2020

Growing Bookworms

When my son, Gregory, was a small lad, he was eager to learn how to read as quickly as possible. He became positively frustrated because he was not able to read. Our local protocol is that children only start learning the alphabet in grade 0 (reception) and learning to read in grade 1 (the year they turn 7). Greg was only 5 when his inability to read became a problem for him.

I decided to start trying to teach Greg to read myself, after all how hard could it be … I’d been reading since I was 5 years old and I have two degrees and a great deal of determination. Well, it turned out to be a little more difficult and complex than I anticipated. We did get there in the end, but I am sure the path to success would have been easier if I have followed a few simple steps up front.

The four main steps in teaching a child to read are as follows:

  1. Making them aware of the written word all around them;
  2. Teaching your child about the different sounds – phonemic awareness;
  3. Teaching your child, the letters of the alphabet and the sounds related to each letter phonics;
  4. Demonstrating to your child how the different sounds fit together to form words.

Awareness of the written word

Pointing out word usage in your immediate environment helps your children understand the purpose of words and reading, and their usefulness in society. When I drove my children around, I always pointed out road and other signs to my boys. I also pointed out newspaper sellers who sold newspapers that people read and always took them into bookstores so they could see the books. We also had lots of books at home which I read to my sons every day, sometimes for up to two hours. I can remember taking two-year-old Greg with me to the obstetrician and my sitting and read to him for between 2 and ½ and 3 hours. Last time I visited, the receptionist still remembered my son as “the boy who sat and listened to stories for three hours.”

As a result of my efforts, my boys came to appreciate the purpose of reading and writing as an important communication tool. This led to both demonstrating a keen interest in learning how to read.

Awareness of sounds

There are lots of different ways to help your children become aware of sounds. The methods my boys and I enjoyed the most were singing nursery rhymes and songs and playing “Eye spy” in the car.

There are other fun games you can play with your child including the following:

  1. Making up songs and poems using different rhyming words;
  2. Listening games where children close their eyes and identify a sound such as crumpling paper;
  3. Playing with words to see if you child can identify the error, for example saying let’s stay instead of let’s play;
  4. Play dancing, clapping and stamping games;
  5. Reading rhymes and sentences that use alliteration and assonance.


This is a method of teaching children to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (letter groups).

You can find some great step-by-step information on teaching children phonics here:

There are lots of fun YouTube videos to help you teach children Phonics.

Blending sounds

Children need to be familiar with the blending of sounds to form words before they can read. One of the best ways of demonstrating the blending of sounds is by reading repetitive books and rhyming books.

My boys loved the Poppy and Sam Farmyard Tales books and the Dr Seuss books. I read these to them repeatedly until they could point out the words and say them because they had memorised the books.

You can purchase the Poppy and Sam Farmyard Tales books here: Amazon US

You can purchase the Dr Seuss books here: Amazon US

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” ~ Dr. Seuss

Other methods I used to familiarise my children with words and sounds were letting them listen to audio books, they loved the Roald Dahl books and listened to these repeatedly. I think I still know most of them off by heart.

Michael was a sickly boy and was off school for over 40 days per year during his first years of schooling. During these long periods of convalescence at home, he listened to a huge array of audio books including many of E Nesbit’s books including The Railway Children and Five Children and It. He also listened to all the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton and even some non-fiction books about Romans, Vikings and mythology.

My oldest son is an enthusiastic and copious reader and recently read 1984 by George Orwell. He has Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton next on his list.

Michael isn’t as fast or advanced a reader as Greg, but he still reads every day and enjoys reading. I think my efforts to instil a love of reading in them have played a bit role in their attitudes towards reading.

Did you teach your children to read? What methods did you use?

About Robbie Cheadle


Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. I also have three short stories in Death Among Us, a collection of short murder mystery stories by 10 different authors and edited by Stephen Bentley. These short stories are all published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle



Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

***Just a note here, since Robbie is so modest. She has five stories of dark fiction coming out in anthologies during October in 2019. “The Siren Witch”, “A Death Without Honour”, and “The Path to Atonement” will appear in Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland  horror anthology, and “Missed Signs” and “The Last of the Lavender” will be featured in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers in the Dark.

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.


59 Comments on “Growing Bookworms: Teaching your child to read”

  1. Reblogged this on Robbie's inspiration and commented:

    I am over at Writing to be Read with a post about teaching your child to read. My oldest son, Greg, was my experiment when it came to teaching a child to read and I forgot to start by teaching him the alphabet. It’s a good thing he’s quite smart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Toni Pike says:

    This is wonderful, very comprehensive advice Robbie. I had to help teach my daughter to read as she found the method used at school then was not helping her, despite being very smart. I found phonics fantastic. Thank you so much for this – and thanks also to Kaye. Toni x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for visiting here, Toni. It is my pleasure to have Robbie on the “Writing to be Read” team. She always has interesting and useful ideas to share. “Growing Bokkworms” has been a welcomed addition to the blog.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Toni. The schools in South African no longer use phonics to teach children to read. They now have to memorise sight words. That method didn’t work for either of my sons either.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful, Robbie! Sharing… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Valentina says:

    I am sure it must have been a hard task or constant work.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner and commented:
    I’ve re-blogged Robbie Cheadle’s post because I agree with what she is saying, and I’d like to add that I taught both my sons to read before they went to school. From about the age of 2 and a half I sat them down with me for about 5 minutes each day (their concentration skills were limited!). On the first day I started with ‘A’, and taught them the sound that ‘A’ makes and how it’s written. The second day I went over what I’d said the previous day. On the third day I repeated the info about ‘A’ and started on ‘B’. This carried on for about a year. It was only when they’d learned the sounds that all the letters made that I then began showing them simple Ladybird reading books. Their little brains were like sponges. When they saw the books they already recognised the letters, and by the time they were 4 they were fluent readers. I don’t have a degree to my name unfortunately, but without knowing what sounds the letters make, I have no idea how children would learn to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Norah says:

    Being able to read and having a love of reading is a priceless gift that parents give their children. Your children are very fortunate to have a mum who encouraged their love of words, books and reading and a deep curiosity about the world.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Jim Borden says:

    We are a family of readers, and when our kids were young we read many, many books to them. Our oldest son became an avid reader at a young age, our middle son it took a while, but once he entered his early twenties, he’d couldn’t stop reading, and probably reads more than any of us now. And our youngest son loves reading shorter pieces found in magazines and on the web.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Good layman’s approach to learning to read. Really, you don’t have to be a teacher to teach it!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Susan Scott says:

    Great post Robbie thanks! Also, setting an example to one’s kids if they see mum and/or dad reading and getting pleasure out of it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Susan, I agree. If parents love reading and children see them reading it sets the tone for their own interest to develop. That is one of the problems with reading in South Africa, a lot of people don’t or can’t read in English and that makes it so much harder for their children.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Brilliantly explained! While I have no children of my own, I will always believe that it was the fact that my parents read to us from infancy, that sparked our interest in loving to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. In some ways I “taught” my children to read by reading to them as soon as they could sit up by themselves – 3 months? Well, actually, sooner than that, because I read non-stop when I was nursing both of my kids. Books were not a ‘thing’ to them – books were just another limb. From there, they seemed to pick up reading quite easily. Maybe even before they learned the alphabet. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. petespringerauthor says:

    Excellent piece, Robbie! The most important thing is to have engaged parents who put value in reading. I read with my son through sixth-grade. Not only did it help him become a better reader, but it was a fantastic father/son time that we both looked forward to each night. When children see their parents reading, it teaches them that reading is fun and important.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I stopped reading with Greg when he was 7. He started reading copiously on his own and didn’t “need” me anymore. I read with Michael until he was 12. We used to alternate reading as Michael is a slow reader and it helped him get through the book quicker so he didn’t lose interest. Michael has a processing problem so he will always read slower than Greg and I, but he is a good reader in his age group so it just goes to show you that persistence and attitude overcome a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s been so long since I learned how to read, it was fun to read your post and remember the challenges and rewards of “sounding it out.”

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Lovely post, Robbie. You’ve made the process of teaching a child to read sound like a joy,

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Thank you for the very good advice, Robbie! Love the four point you mentioned. Will spread the word. Best wishes, be well and stay save. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Michael. I am glad you liked these points and will share the word. It is great for parents to get advice on teaching, especially now when lots of children are still home schooling. You also stay safe and well. Hugs.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you too, Robbie! Yes, in these days most parents need a guideline who to act with their children. Since we here in Germany have this “day over schools” one are seeing their children only three or four hours per day. Sometimes this remembers me on the school system in the German Democratic Republic, or some other socialist states. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  16. dgkaye says:

    Brilliant Robbie. Just more of you being such a great parent. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  17. olganm says:

    Great post, Robbie. I don’t have any children, although recently I’ve been reading a lot of books on teaching, and as is the case with everything, there are a lot of different theories on how we acquire language and how we learn. Some people learn better by listening, others visually, others by doing (kinetic) and others by reading and writing, but most of us don’t learn what type we are until later in life, so a combination of approaches is ideal. From what my parents have always told me, it seems that I was eager to learn to read from very early on, and I kept pestering them to tell me what all notices, signs, and anything written said. I’m still the same, but thankfully now I can read it myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was also like that, Olga, and I more or less taught myself to read using this method. I have two children but no formal education on teaching although I have attended course due to my work and my need to train others. Teaching kids is much more rewarding and fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. carhicks says:

    Another great post Robbie. Whether someone is trying to teach their child to read or not, these are great tips for any parent to do things with their children. I did not set out to teach my children to read, but before they started school, they knew the letters, their sounds. how to write their names and some basic letter blending. They are both readers and have been all their lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Carla, I think a lot of parents teach their children the alphabet and to count just as a natural part of their interaction with their kids. Also colours and animals. It give children such an advantage to know theses things when they start school.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Teri Polen says:

    Excellent advice, Robbie. And it doesn’t matter how fast Michael reads – he enjoys it and does it every day, that’s what’s important. My youngest was behind in his reading in first grade and after I worked with him, he was reading on a fifth grade level by the end of the year. He enjoys reading more than my oldest.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Hi Robbie! I thought I saw an email from you about Day 8 Book Tour, but IT HAS DISAPPEARED. Please resend or let me know about tomorrow’s guest post on my blog… THANKS! ❤ xo

    Liked by 2 people

  21. […] the Valentine Toffee Cupid“, the benefits of singing and rhyming verse for children, “Teaching Children to Read“, “Introducing Non-Fiction to Children“, “The Future of Education“, […]


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