5 Elements of Literacy: Approachable Ways to Teach your Kid to Read

The pandemic has proven challenging for a trillion reasons. For many parents, the fact that we are now (woefully unqualified) part-time educators is high on that list. The importance of learning to read is not lost on most parents. For many though, debates about best practices and methodology can make it hard to know where to begin when broaching literacy skills. The idea of teaching your kiddo to read can feel incredibly overwhelming when consumed as a whole. When viewing literacy skills as bite size chunks, however, it becomes far easier to understand how to help your child explore and nurture them. Below are the 5 basic elements of literacy. Clearly establishing them and envisioning when and where you can explore them in your daily routine will help you identify approachable ways to teach your kiddo to read. It truly can be as easy as A-B-C:


This the connection between sound and letter symbol. When you are reading a book, driving by a billboard or walking past a store sign, make a point to note the letters you see. Talk about the sounds they make. Specifically discuss the first letter of a word and practice identifying the letter: “K!” and the sound it makes: “kuh!” The simple concept you are exploring and practicing is that letters represent sounds.


This is essentially putting individual sounds together to create a word. When walking past a laundry mat, for example, point out the letters “m/a/t” and identify what they are and the sound they make. Then sound it out together. The idea you are fostering here is directly built upon phonics and letter recognition – when you put the sound letters represent together they form words.


This is simply a collection of words or phrases. Your child acquires words through every interaction – conversation, reading, movie and television watching, game playing and more. For your part, encourage yourself to use words with your kiddos that you know they may be unaware of or not know versus simplifying your phrasing from the start. Don’t over simplify your language. Instead use a range of words and phrases, knowing you’ll then have to add additional explanation to help them understand the meaning of these words, to provide your child with an opportunity to absorb new language and expand their lexicon 😉


This is a culmination of the skills above – being able to look at letters together to identify words, then putting these words together to form sentences, and lastly putting these sentences together to form cohesive thoughts. The best practice for this is both reading and writing. Whether you are helping to transcribe thoughts dictated by your child, helping them write ideas down themselves or simply reading together, all of these simple activities bolster fluency and all the activities above will feed into this.

Reading Comprehension

This is king of the literacy skills. Comprehension represents a child’s ability to intake the letters, words and sentences to determine overarching thoughts and then layer in their own critical thinking, point of view and perspective. All of the aforementioned skills will help build towards this one. It represents your child’s ability to navigate the elements above proficiently and to use literacy as a tool for deeper critical thinking.

This all sounds simple – which is the point. Often the notion of teaching our child to read feels overwhelming, when in fact the individual elements are truly simple and obvious. Rather than focusing on an end goal, like teaching your kid to read, think more about these individual elements. Doing so can help you mine and explore literacy-building moments throughout your daily routine and turn a daunting task into an approachable, joyful one.

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