How to Teach a 2-Year-Old to Read Successfully?

A toddler girl building with blocks.Can 2-year-olds learn to read? How to teach a 2-year-old to read? I’m happy to share with you, my personal experience of teaching my own toddler son to read.

Before I had my son, I was not one to imagine teaching my own future child to read one day. Reading to him, yes. But teaching him to read? That thought never struck me.

Instead, I did think of sending my child to a phonics class in future to help him learn reading. Because that’s what I saw my sister did with her two daughters.

Shortly after I had my baby, for the first time I came across an advertisement promoting a baby reading program. I was sold and I bought the rather expensive program. I was so looking forward to the day that my baby could read. That never happened.

That never happened.

After 4 months of lessons, I didn’t see any signs of my baby reading. So I stopped his lessons and shelved the baby reading program. I didn’t want to continue having him sit on my lap and look at words flashed across the computer screen on a daily basis.

But later on, when he was older, I was introduced to a children’s reading program which I began to use on my child, Kaden when he was 2 years and 3 months old. The highly-effective Children Learning Reading program was developed by a father, Jim Yang who successfully taught his own children to read as toddlers.

I’ve personally experienced success in using this program in teaching my child to read. Without this program, maybe I would still be on the path of sending my son to a phonics enrichment class when he turned 4 or 5 years old and these lessons could easily cost a lot more.

If you want to teach your 2-year-old child to read, I have a few tips to share with you:

1. Read to Your Toddler

Regardless of how young your child is, read to him regularly. It’s a great bonding time for both of you. It also introduces him to the world of printed text, and let him associate stories with the text in the books.

As he grows older, consistently use your index finger to point beneath each word that you read. It lets him know that we read from left to right, and also sounds are connected with words.

2. Assess Your Toddler’s Readiness to Read

If she is ready, start her on her reading lessons. Remember children at this age learn best through play and fun. Keep the lessons fun and also short to cater to their short attention span.

If your child doesn’t seem interested at this stage, try again in a few months’ time. The intention is to get her interested in learning to read, not to put her off the idea of learning. She might be ready maybe 2 or 4 months later. It’s okay.

3. Start Lessons When Your Toddler is Speaking More Clearly

Usually, kids start to speak more clearly around 2.5 years old, so you might like to start his reading lessons then.

But your child’s speech development could be more advanced, and you can start earlier if you deem he is ready.

My son’s speech was not advanced. At 2 years and 3 months old, he was speaking more words, but not in sentences yet. He could speak rather clearly, though. Around that time, I also noticed his intellectual ability was developing quickly. So I decided to start him on the Children Learning Reading program.

4. Help Your Toddler to Develop Phonemic Awareness

As I mentioned earlier, I saw my two nieces attended enrichment phonic classes. So I thought I would do the same for my son when he was about 4 or 5 years old. I had a vague idea that learning phonics would help a child learn to read.

What I didn’t know then was that I could be helping my toddler to develop phonemic awareness first before he even starts to learn to read.

Phonemic awareness is the skill of identifying the smallest units of letter sounds. This skill would go towards helping him to progress well with a phonics and phonemic awareness based reading program in future.

So when my toddler was 17 months old, I focused more on helping him develop his phonemic awareness skills through listening to phonics songs, singing to him the phonics songs, and letting him play with phonic toys.

While my son was having fun playing, he was also picking up phonemic awareness skill.

You could also slow down certain words in your daily conversation with your child. For example, “Do you want more b-r-ea-d?” “Would you like to d-r-in-k water?” Let your child understand that words are made up of letter sounds. This would take repetition and consistency.

5. Choose a Phonics and Phonemic Awareness Based Reading Program

There are many baby reading programs that teach babies to read through using the whole word method. Hundreds or thousands of words and pictures are flashed before the young child. Through repetition, over time the child will be memorizing and recognizing these word shapes.

However, I prefer a phonics and phonemic awareness based reading program where the toddler is taught to sound out letters, decode words, and blend letter sounds to pronounce words.

This way, the child will be more successful in sounding out unfamiliar words on her own in future. Studies have also shown that phonemic awareness instruction programs are more successful in producing fluent readers.

2-year-olds children can certainly learn to read when there’s a nurturing, patient and loving adult who will take the time to teach, using a simple, step-by-step and effective toddler reading program. You can read my review of the very effective Children Learning Reading program here.

If you have any questions or comments about what I’ve just shared, simply leave them here and I’ll get back to you soon!

8 comments for “How to Teach a 2-Year-Old to Read Successfully?

  1. July 22, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    I love the article and a have a two-year-old son exact. Which program would you recommend to start teaching him to read?

    • Fion
      July 26, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Hi Verna,

      I’m glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed this article. If you’re interested to teach your two-year-old son to read, I’d recommend you take a look at my review of this reading program which I’ve used to teach my own son to read. All the best!

  2. Olga Bolanos
    September 7, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Can you please share which listening phonics songs and phonic toys you used with your son? Great article btw. Thanks!

    • Fion
      September 7, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Hi Olga,

      I’m happy that you’ve enjoyed my article. When he was a toddler, I used to let him listen to these phonics songs you can find on YouTube. For example, Phonics Song and Phonics Song 2.

      As for phonics toys, my son was gifted with a set of Leapfrog Fridge Phonics when he was very young. He’s now five, and this set of Fridge Phonics is still stuck to our fridge door. You can read my review of the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics to find out more.

  3. Rina
    December 1, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Hi, I really love the article and have a 2-year-old son exact. My son is able to read ABC and recognize the alphabet when he was 1 year and 6 months old. He is now 2 years and 3 months old but he hardly listens to me when I tried to read a story to him.

    • Fion
      December 1, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Rina,

      It’s okay if your son doesn’t seem to listen to you at the moment. But you can continue to show him age-appropriate storybooks and keep your reading time short. Toddlers’ attention span at this age can be short. If you try reading to him for a few more times and he doesn’t seem interested, maybe you can try again in a month’s time. If he still isn’t interested, try again a month later. Who knows, he might be more ready then. Keep reading aloud to your child, in time to come he’ll appreciate it. :)

  4. Shahira
    January 19, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I love this article! I’m always searching for new ways to get my child ready for preschool. She’s only two years old and knows her colors, shapes and can identify a few letters of the alphabet. We read together (she loves The Lorax and I would have to read like three or four books in a row because she always begs for more) and sometimes she “reads” a book to me using the pictures. Those YouTube phonics videos helps a lot too.
    Thank you for sharing these tips.

    • Fion
      January 20, 2017 at 12:22 am

      Hi Shahira,

      Happy to hear that this article has been helpful to you! Your girl has a good attention span and it’s great that you’re reading out loud to her often. It helps a lot in helping her form a good connection between the printed words in books and letter sounds. :)

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