Keys to Reading

The five skills below have been found to be most critical in teaching children to read.


Comprehension is the ability to understand and draw meaning from what has been read.

Activities to practice comprehension

  • Wanted Poster: Identify the bad character in a story and have the child draw a "wanted" poster.
  • Compare and Contrast: Read two stories together and talk about what's similar and different.
  • Story Dice: Make a dice with different topics on each side. Roll the dice and make a story using the prompts.
  • Comic Books: Have your child illustrate a story using a comic book format.
  • Spin a Story: Using the provided spinner template, have the child explain the part of the book that corresponds to the topic spun.


Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy and proper expression.

Activities to practice fluency

Phonemic awareness

This skill encompasses: 

  • The understanding that words are made up of sounds. It is not related to print (letter recognition is phonics)
  • The ability to pick out and manipulate sounds in spoken words
  • Developed in part by listening to rhymes, rhyming words, poetry, songs and wordplay

Activities to practice phonemic awareness

  • Sound Sort, Part 1: Set your child to work sorting the objects by their beginning sound. [Part 2].
  • Sound Scavenger Hunt: Send your child off to find objects around the house that start with certain sounds.
  • Reading and Rhyming: Read books that rhyme and draw your child's attention to the rhymes.
  • Sound Boxes: As you say a word, have your child push a counter (use a coin or plastic brick or other small item) into a box for each sound in the word.


Phonics is the idea that letters represent the sounds of spoken language.

Activities to practice phonics

  • Kaboom: Drawing craft sticks inscribed with letters of the alphabet. The Kaboom stick means you start all over again.
  • Roll-A-Word: Make new words using paper towel rolls.
  • Stretch It Out: Attach letters to a piece of elastic and practice saying the sounds slowly.


Vocabulary is the knowledge of and memory for word meanings.

Activities to practice vocabulary

  • Beach Ball: Cover a beach ball in words and then as you toss it back and forth, wherever your thumb hits, say that word aloud or use it in a sentence.
  • Letter Hop: Make a path of letters. What letter you land on, say a word that starts with that letter.
  • Vocabulary Jenga: Write vocabulary words on the sides of Jenga blocks. When you pull a block, read the word aloud.
  • Word Swat: Label blank cards with vocabulary words and spread them out. Have your child locate and hit the word with a fly swatter when you say it.
  • Word Towers: Cut a foam noodle into pieces and label each piece with a letter. Stack the letters to make words.

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