Education, Kids

Ready to Read?

August 23, 2012

I had a dear friend email me yesterday with the news that her little one was expressing an interest in reading. Her exact words were, “Mami, show me how to read.” OMG. I. Love. It!!!
But how does one really do it? I’m not an early-childhood teacher or an elementary teacher but an English teacher for the secondary grades (disclaimer: yes, I make grammatical mistakes here and there…my passion is literature. ha!) but Diego started reading right before his fourth birthday (humble brag…now I’m being a mom) and these are some of the things that worked for him. “Worked for him” in the sense that he also expressed an interest in reading very early and these were the materials that I noticed he enjoyed. Did they teach him to read? I don’t know but they surely can’t hurt if you use them for your child.

Being my first born, I had a lot of free time in Japan and read to Diego every single day of his life until he was a little over 3. I remember the day I didn’t get a chance to read to him! No exaggeration. He also had toys that if you pressed the letter, it said its name. I would hear, “A A A A A A….” all day long. At 18 months he knew how to identify every single letter in no particular order. I knew that was exceptional and that he LOVED letters and words and books. So I continued to “work” with him. He loved it and I was loving it.

Here are a few things I recommend: 1) Read to your child everyday and 2) encourage “quiet reading” time as early as you can. Santi started to imitate us at 18 months. They just have to sit with stacks of books and “read”. And 3) Expose them to masses of books as often as you can. We go to libraries and bookstores so frequently that it is just like going to the grocery store. Routine. Ok, back to the materials!

Leap Frog: Letter Factory DVD

Yes, my boys watch TV! Try to pick the best, the most educational, the most inspiring thing out there. Diego loved these Leap Frog DVDs. The songs are catchy and they are teaching your child phonics. Every letter has a sound and they will repeat it over and over and over… Try other songs and remember to reinforce one-on-one. How? When they are eating use a letter place mat. When you are driving point out letters and practice the sound. Go for walks and do the same.

Melissa and Doug Letter Magnets

Once Diego learned the sound of the letters with the help of the the Leap Frog DVDs, my reinforcements, and other alphabet songs, we moved on to playing with letters. He wanted to build his own words. We had these Melissa and Doug magnets and we also used foam letters, alphabet stickers and stamps, letter blocks, and water letters for the bath.. and he started to spell.

Eeboo Products

There are amazing puzzles, flash cards and books that teach sight words. I really liked these Eeboo word puzzles because Diego was matching, reading and using fine motor skills all in one.

Boggle Jr. Game

Games work too! Diego loved playing with the cubes and matching the letter to the picture card. Boggle Jr. introduces word recognition, spelling and memory. Can’t wait to use this with Santi.

I Can Read Books

There is nothing better than hearing your child say, “I am ready for level two (or three! or four!).” I know there are a lot of these types of books out there but as a loyal customer I just continue to buy them. Any of these types of books will work. They even have titles with your child’s favorite character, superheroes and princess stories too.

I have to say that Diego is entering Kindergarten reading and understanding what he is reading very well BUT Santi is 21 months and only recognizes some letters. Jordi has had 2 books read to him… maybe? Every child is different, your time is spread out different, so your results will be different. All we can do is try our best. When children start to ask for books and “show me how to read” pops out of their mouths…how incredible. Give that to them! Encouraging the passion for reading at an early age is not a race to be the youngest reader of all time, it is the preparation for their overall academic life. It doesn’t matter when they start doing it, what matters is that they like it and look forward to reading.

Do you have any other ideas to encourage young readers? Would love to hear! Oh and click at the images for some shopping fun!

Your friend,


P.s. I know you have a lot of friends out there with little kids! Would you mind sharing this please? Just copy the link and post it on their FB wall! hee hee!





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  • Reply Raquelito78 August 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Emma loves for us to read to her. There are times when we get home late and she wants “libros.” we have few Spanish books so we improvise when we’re reading a English book. I wanted her to do quiet time yesterday and she read out loud and wanted me to participate. I’m doing bilingual flash cards with her, which she really enjoys. We do lots of recognition of pictures. Should I be sounding out words and point to the word? I’m still working on her speaking properly in Spanish around me. I want her to not be confused with her words choices. Although, I’m not sure how to teach her “pink” and “rosa” are the same color. I’m impressed with Diego’s abilities. Santi will be there in no time. Do I teach reading in English or español? Any suggestions?

    • Betty
      Reply Betty August 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      Hi Raquel! Thanks for commenting! Oooh the bilingual questions! I have to do a post on that, thank you. I have a complete different approach in teaching reading in Spanish. I have a lot of the same materials in Spanish but do some things differently. I’ll let you know when I post that…it will be another long one! jajaja!
      But you are doing all the right things. You have to do what comes natural. Sometimes with Santi (and it worked for Diego) I say the colors in Spanish, sometimes in English, and sometimes I do both. Right now with Santi I am sounding out letters only and when I read to him I just read and point at pictures in Spanish. With Diego it’s different because he learned English as soon as he started preschool so then I reinforced what he was learning there and putting Spanish second at home.
      I would suggest to do as much as you can in Spanish and when she starts school reinforce what she learns there. She will have that Spanish foundation and if you work even harder (cause it is a lot of work) continue her Spanish “lessons”. It’s been slow with Diego but he hasn’t forgotten and he is reading a little in Spanish now.
      I hope this helps. I promise I’ll jot my thoughts a bit more clearly and write about this. I’ll let you know when I do. xoxo

  • Reply Caro August 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

    There is a website that many teacher recommend called It helps with phonics and letter recognition.

    • Betty
      Reply Betty August 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks Caro! I’ll check it out! xoxo

  • Reply Bertha August 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I wanted Luis to read your post before I commented. We both thank you from the bottom of our hearts!! I love that my daughter has expressed an interest in reading and yes I want to fully take advantage of it. Since your post, we have gone to the bookstore where she’s picked out her princess books to start reading and Target has some Level books in their dollar bins! Bonus! She is sounding off the letters and she knows what sounds they make. We’re working on putting them together, the extra 10 minutes that we’re spending at night doing this, I’m sure will pay off! I was also talking to her PreK teacher and they’re revamping the whole PreK program and putting more emphasis on writing and reading! Double Bonus!! It’s gonna cost me a couple of extra dollars a week, but who cares! If I can give her that extra advantage in school I don’t care how much I have to pay.

    • Betty
      Reply Betty August 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      This is great news Bertha! So glad and thank you for having Luis read my post as well. It takes a huge effort from BOTH parents. Having dads model reading is also a great thing. Hmmm…future post? Thanks!! xoxo 😉

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