Toddlers can read.

Hi, I'm Matthew, and I want to tell you how my son learned to read.

My parents taught me to read using Little Golden Books. My mom made special books for me, and my dad read them to me. They took 2 Little Golden Books apart and put the pages on the left side and a typed, big-print version of the book's text on the right side.

When I grew up and had a child of my own, I started looking around for ways to teach my son how to read, and I thought back on my own childhood, so I asked my parents if they still had any of my old books. My dad gave me a couple of books, and I made dozens more for my son. Almost every single night since he was a baby, I have read to him at least one book before he goes to sleep. I run my fingers under the words as I read them. Now, he asks me to read him multiple books every night, loves to read, and loves to listen to audiobook versions of the books that I recorded for him on some Bluetooth speakers.

I made this site to share with you some things that I learned about teaching my son to read. I hope that with patience and consistency, you can also experience the wonderful joy of seeing your little one reading and loving it.

August 2023 Update

My son is now in 2nd grade, and I am now teaching my daughter to read. She loves to go get a book from the bookshelf every night before bed, sometimes even asking me for 2 or 3 books before she will go to sleep. Our goal is to have her reading before she is three. I will keep this site updated with any developments!

How to Teach Your Toddler to Read

Believe that your toddler can learn to read.

Kids can learn to read a lot sooner than people think they can. The very first step is believing that it is even possible for a toddler to read. Many parents wait until preschool or kindergarten for their children to begin reading on their own, but most two and three-year-olds are perfectly capable of not only reading but also comprehending much of what they read. When I saw my son (at three years old!) read 12 pages in a row of Aladdin, I felt vindicated that I trusted in his ability to read so early. Your child can learn to read before most people think they can!

Kids like to read words they can actually see.

Most children’s books are not designed for kids to read; rather, they are designed for parents to read to children. You can tell because the font is too small and the contrast between the text and the background illustrations is not high enough (for example, black text on a dark blue background). With these modified books, the text is black on a white background for maximum contrast, and the font size is as big as possible. 

Big print makes a BIG difference.

Touch each word as you read it.

Many parents and teachers read to kids, yet forget to point to each word as they read. This step is important so that children make the connection between which sounds they are hearing and which words match the sound. Imagine if you were learning a foreign language. Wouldn't you learn the language a lot faster if you knew exactly which sounds corresponded to which words?

Read every day.

If you make it a habit to read with your child at meals, after a bath, or just before bed, then it becomes part of their bedtime routine. Your child will learn to expect to read, and will remind you if you forget. Sometimes, your child might even request that you read five or ten books before bedtime. Even if you don’t have time for that many books, try to read at least one every day.

Read books that you won’t get bored of reading to your child.

If we’re being honest, some children’s books are not very interesting. While there are many great options to choose from, Disney and Pixar books will likely hold both your child’s attention and your own over many readings. Figure out which stories they enjoy, and then see if there is a Little Golden Book or other version appropriate to their age and reading level.

Kids like to read stories that they enjoy.

Little Golden Books are a good source of stories because many stories, such as Aladdin or Pinocchio, are timeless classics that they will enjoy reading over and over again. Additionally, new Little Golden Books come out every year to keep up with modern tales, such as Lightyear and Moana. Because these books also have movies and toys associated with them, it is relatively easy for children to learn the story because they can make connections among the words, the images, the movies, and the toys.

Give your child choices.

There are many Little Golden Books available to choose from, but allowing your child to choose which ones they want will make the process even more enjoyable. Also, allowing your child to choose which books they want to read each night is a great way to encourage their agency.

Kids love to read durable books.

Paper-based books are not well suited for young children to read on their own because the paper tears easily. Even board books can be destroyed by an exploratory toddler. These pages are printed on cardstock and loaded in sheet protectors. If a child rips out a sheet protector, they are cheap and easily replaceable. In the several years that my son has been reading, he has never once destroyed a page beyond my ability to simply load it into a new sheet protector and replace it within seconds.

Play with toys that correspond to the book.

Playing with toys from the stories you read is a great way to help your child understand what you both are reading about. For example, if you have a Buzz Lightyear toy, have it next to you when you read Toy Story. You can help children learn to read more easily when you make clear connections between things they can touch (the toy), images (the picture of Buzz Lightyear), and words (“Buzz Lightyear”). This is because learning happens when we make connections between prior learning or perceptions and new information. For more information on how this theory of learning works, check out the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract theory of learning.

Make the book with your child.

There’s a special sense of ownership and joy that comes with making something together. Your child will appreciate the book more if they had a part in making it. To see which materials I recommend for making these books, check out my recommended materials.

Read during meals.

The sheets are food and water-resistant, so these books also make a great companion during meals. Books can do a great job of entertaining children, especially when paired with an audiobook so that you can eat too! If you record a video of yourself reading the book, you can let them watch it on a tablet or a big-screen device. For example, here is Pinocchio.

If you speak more than one language, try making the books in other languages.

Since you are typing the books yourself, you have total control over what you put on the page. Making a book in another language, or even a bilingual book, is a great way to teach your children multiple languages.

Record yourself reading the book.

Many children can learn to navigate their way around a basic MP3 player and Bluetooth speakers at least by the age of three. When you give children the power to pause, rewind, and repeat, you put them in control of their reading time. They can surprise you with how much they want to read. For an added challenge, try recording a video of you reading the book (with the camera pointed at the pages), upload it to YouTube, generate a QR code, and teach your child how to scan it. 

Children love to learn but hate to be tested.

Don't stress out about putting pressure on your child to read. If you put your child on the spot and ask them to read and they can't, then you are only giving them a memory of being frustrated and failing because they weren't able to do something you hoped they could do. Just enjoy reading to your child because someday very soon, they won't need you to read to them anymore because they will be able to do it on their own. When your child is ready to read, he or she will let you know. Don't worry if your child appears to lose interest in the book and starts playing with toys while you are reading; they are still listening. At this point in their reading journey, you are developing consistency: you want to read every single day if possible, preferably at a consistent point in their routine, such as just before bed.

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