The Controlled Panic

One of the most common, and “urgent”, questions we hear from people new to (or contemplating) homeschool is “How do I teach my child to read???”

Note the three question marks. Yes, that’s how it sounds when they say it; there’s an emotional tug in that question that tells you a lot is hinging on the answer.

I have been homeschooling for going on thirty years, and my youngest is 14 as of the time of this post. I have two dyslexic children, one with profound developmental delays, two with dyscalculia, several who were precocious in one way or another, and all of whom have amazing gifts, talents, challenges and personalities! The two who took the ACT scored in the 30’s. The others who have reached adulthood are successful, effective and fulfilled in the families and professional life.

Why do I tell you all this? Because I just want to give some context for the ideas I’m about to share with you. I want you to know that I understand the context of learning challenges — including divergent learning styles and dealing with gifted and disabled children.

Here’s what they used to look like, circa 2006, with some updated images circa 2017:

They’re all even older now, and we have lots of stories to tell about our experience with family learning!

If you subscribe to our newsletter [here] you’ll get more of that. I share my enthusiasm and confidence that children with a variety of learning styles, developmental trajectories, challenges and gifts can be successfully educated without ruining their self-esteem, your relationship with them or their will to learn without force. They really can!

No Excuses

But I have a specific purpose for this post. Considering the aforementioned panic that sometimes accompanies the question of ‘how children learn to read,’ I wanted to get beyond all the worried disclaimers people tend to give [“well, it’s easy for you, because…”, “but what if…?”, “my situation is different, so…”].

To do this I’m going to give you a broad cross-section of experience from people who aren’t me – who aren’t us. [Part 1 of this post is found here >>]

This is a long post, and you can bug out at any time after you’ve gotten the point. But I’m hoping that the weight of so many witnesses with such varied situations and experiences will speak to you, and you’ll find some relevant examples to give you the specific insight that will help you most.

So here is the question I posted on Facebook…


[For audible text: For those who had kids learn to read “organically” without lots of lessons or drilling, can you please give a detailed narrative of what that looked like, what *you* did to facilitate (or not sabotage) the process, and anything else you think would help others who are trying to wrap their head around this?]

Here are the responses:

These are loosely organized by type at first, and then just follow the order in which they were posted on the Facebook discussion.


Seeing others in the family reading made the biggest difference

EL: My 4th child never attended a public school at all and I was freaked about him learning to read. He turned 8 in June of this year. He began reading small words on his own about a year before that but if I tried to encourage a little more he would become slightly disinterested. I backed off. Every once in a while I would show him some tricks like how you could turn the word bat into cat by just changing one letter. My mom read with him one-on-one away from the other kids about 3 times. One day he came home from grandma’s and said he could read. He now reads small chapter books on his own almost every single night. I have extra copies of our family readaloud so that he can follow along. It really just happened once he became interested. I think the biggest key was him seeing me and the other kids read. He wanted to be like the older kids.

Reading aloud; nighttime reading; library trips

KL: We have always done lots of reading aloud together, especially any books the kids asked me to read with them. When they started noticing letter sounds in the words, I asked them to read just a few words of the story as I pointed to them. When they started to slow down or show any tiny sign of frustration, I read the rest of the story to them. They “caught” me and my husband reading, and later older siblings, just for fun. They could see that reading is something older people do for fun and to learn new things. They have reading time every night from 7pm to 8pm before lights out. They may not play with toys or lights-out comes early. This has incentivized the older siblings to read to their younger siblings, strengthening the reading habit in all of them. As they come to my husband and I with their first personal goals, (“I’m going to read this whole book!”) we offer encouragement. As they accomplish those goals, (“Mom, I just read these three I Can Read It books!”) we offer rewards of new books just for them. Ownership and achievement make reading even better for my kids. We also have a graduation party as soon as our kids start setting their own reading goals and sticking to them. We call it graduation because they are going from Core phase into Love of Learning phase. We make this party a big deal and include extended family with all kinds of treats, like Book Worms (gummy worms) and graduation caps (fudge covered graham squares).

Having regular trips to the library, every two weeks, and keeping our personal library in the living room where books are visible has inspired our older readers to pick up more challenging books. That’s how we do it. I have 3 readers and 2 nonreaders (aged 3 and 1).

Even as they get older, I’ve found a lot of value in reading aloud together, one on one. My oldest and I are reading Anne of Green Gables, and my second oldest and I are reading Roald Dahl books. We alternate pages.

  • DL: How old were your kids when you started the reading from 7-8pm etc?
  • KL: Very young. We have five rambunctious boys, so they don’t settle down quickly at night no matter what routine is in place. “Reading time” helps a little, as does the early lights out threat. We partnered room buddies so there’s one big boy with a little boy, so they learn quickly that if they want time to read their own thing, they should read first to the younger child and get them to sleep. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but it’s getting easier for everyone. They cherish their reading time. Our oldest was about 5 or 6 when he realized he could use reading time to read! Since then, he’s been a great example to the others… most of the time.:p

Early start; pause; reading together – led to him reading in his own time.

JE: My son expressed a desire to learn to read. I had done reading lessons prematurely with him in the past and they did not go over well so we had stopped for a long time. It was at the beginning of summer and I told him I would help him with whatever he needed. Instead of doing reading lessons, we just read A LOT of books together – shorter chapter books and picture books (me reading to him). There was no pressure to read. I did download the hooked on phonics teacher app and let him use it when he wanted. He just wanted to read more than anything. That desire was the most important part. I did get some easier bob books and since he loved the Life of Fred books, I got the LOF readers for him. He really did it on his own. I just tried to help him when he asked for it and continued to model to him what it looks like to love books. He is now a voracious reader.

  • DL: How old?
  • JE: He was 5 when he told me he was ready. He’s now 8. My now 5 year old is nowhere near ready. Every child is SO different, that is why it’s important to let them swim daily in beautiful words, then let them take the lead. My other daughter struggled until she was 7ish.

“Uninterested” child with autism learned to read by himself….

DT: Hahaha, are you ready for this?

Our oldest has high functioning autism. We didn’t know it until he was 7yo, though. Even as a baby, we always said he was not a performing monkey. He would NEVER do what we asked him to do if he knew it would draw attention to himself. (ie: Smile for Grandma!…nope…)

We did send him to public school for kindergarten, but it was a really bad fit (undiagnosed autism vs old fashioned “you must fit in this box or you’re a bad kid” teacher). Before K, he knew his ABCs, and in K, they did drill him a bit, but he really hated the whole experience. We pulled him at the end of the year and went back to homeschooling (an awesome decision).

The years start to pass and he will not read. My husband started getting really worried, because he had been a tutor in the public school system and was told over and over that kids who can’t read at a certain level by a certain grade will never gain reading competency. Our son was getting close to that age and was not progressing. He would not even try to read in front of me, and would have meltdowns if we did anything that looked like schoolwork (to this day, we call our learning time “Discovery Time” so it doesn’t reference school).

Then, one day, my husband was making dinner (bless him), and our son came in with a Star Wars book. It was a kids’ book, but it was not an easy reader. He simply said, “Dad, I want to read this to you.” He proceeded to read the entire book from beginning to end without a stumble. You see, he is still not a performing monkey, and learning to read in front of someone caused him anxiety, and he didn’t want us to know he was teaching himself in case he failed, so he did it all secretly until he was ready for the big reveal. While he was reading, my husband looked at me with wide eyes and mouthed, “I’m not worried anymore.” He has been a believer in TJEd ever since. 😉

About six months later, he gave a talk in primary [Sunday School for children] totally unassisted by me. He was poised, confident, and said even the big words without a struggle. He had great vocal tone, and you could he cared about the message, not just the words. The primary secretary leaned over to me and said, “He is such a good reader!” I smiled and told her, “Thanks! Until six months ago, we didn’t even know he could read!”

  • CG: Haha, a similar thing happened with our son that has aspergers. The first time I ever heard him read was when he was 11. He had the scripture in primary. I was in the [primary leadership] so I was in the room, but didn’t know he had the scripture that week. He got up there and just started reading a scripture. I was in the back dumbfounded and crying because I had no idea he could do it.
  • DT: Yes! My son has Aspergers (they just changed what it’s called, you know…so confusing…). They’re little surprise firecrackers, aren’t they?!
  • DR: I have one who is very similar to this. She didn’t want to be taught. We always did read alouds. But when a friend challenged her to finish a particular book before he did, she ran with it. She was 7 at the time. A few months later she started reading in family scripture study and my husband said “when did she learn to read?” My 2 other kids are a completely different story for another day.
  • AJ: Such sweet stories! Thanks for sharing! I used to do ABA therapy with kids on the spectrum. I miss those sweet kiddos! All so different, but all so tender hearted and loving!

Two in the same family learned differently, and on their own timeline.

CW: My oldest watched leap frog learning factory twice then knew all his letters and sounds completely on his own with that. I had Bob books and we would sound out the letters and he was reading small words by 3 1/2 years. Then we slowly moved to more Bob books then using the teach your child to read in 100 lessons which he got bored with so we moved to easy books then slowly harder and harder. But it was all him. My second son who is almost 7 is completely different–slowly reading more–but I don’t mind! His brother was just a fast reader.

Read to them daily since birth, learning sight words on lap.

SL: My youngest has been read to daily since birth. Once she got to be about 5, her elder brother was always reading, which made her want to do it. Sometimes, as we read, we would point to each word as we read it. Then she wanted to read the BOB books, so we sat with her as she began sounding them out. Once she made it through some of those, the light went on and it clicked for her. She learned letter sounds through Leap Frog Letter Factory and iPad games.

CG: I have three boys that learned to read this way. The oldest has aspergers, the middle has mild dyslexia, the youngest seems to be “normal”. 🙂 They all learned their letter sounds by watching Leap Frog’s Letter Factory. The only other things we did was read out loud a lot, and I read my own books a lot. We have a very strong family culture of reading. I have a daughter now that is 6 who is interested in learning to read and she likes to do flash cards so we do them, but that isn’t something I did with my boys. When my boys were ready to read, they just did. After that point, there were some words they didn’t know that I would just tell them, but they always picked up on that stuff really quick. We have reading games available, but we never really used them. I know it sounds weird to most that kids can learn to read without any real instruction, but it truly is what happened with my kids.

Read together; wait for interest; no-stress approach.

EP: We read together (gives context and purpose to reading); I waited for their interest to pique (varied wildly between the ages of 3-8); and approached learning as no stress-no requirement (I don’t mind non-manipulative encouragement to match their desire, however).

I have seven kids, five readers. Several of them seriously taught themselves over a thre-month period when their pique of interest overlapped with a busy family time where I was less available. Honestly, it shocked me the first time it happened, but then I saw it a couple of times afterward and have come to believe it is like learning any other skill. It doesn’t have to be spoon fed, but can be acquired by the seeking mind—especially when the environment fosters it, with lots of other people doing it and shared reading.

My slowest bloomers have read some thick classics and learned impressive vocabulary and English skills.

We were born with a drive to learn!

Oh—and the only one I officially taught to read—like with a program—was the three year old who was my first child. She pushed and pushed me until I convinced her to wait for her fourth birthday for a reading program as a present. She pushed me through the program in three weeks and was done. Done=pick up anything and read. She was the anomaly and super early for me. But all the current readers in my family read extensively and seem to have no qualms regarding book length or difficulty, pending only interest in the material.

  • AP: id some with my now 5 year old. But my 3 year old wants to learn and wants something more formal. Her birthday is coming up, so this is a good idea! She might be the right age for the 100 lessons book (it was too easy for my son by the time I tried it) but I’m curious what you used!
  • EP: We used the program called happy phonics. We tried the 100 less it’s book and my son hated it! I know a lot of people do like it though. Happy phonics is basically a series of games with very little prep work on my part so it worked really well for ME! She loved it.

Early reader learns easily without drilling.

LR: I learned to read, completely organically, when I was 4. I had this collection of audio books on cassette that came with the physical books to follow along in. My mom noticed how intently I was studying these and also provided music tapes with the lyrics printed out. I also have memories of constantly asking what things said. My son also learned to read organically when he was 4. He was (and still is) read aloud to every day and has access to lots of books of all kinds. Like me, he loved to follow along with me as I read, or with an audio book. And he was constantly asking about what things said. Especially at the grocery store. My nearly 6 year old is just enjoying listening to read alouds and inquiring about letters. She has some sight words, and loves to write.

  • DL: Where did you get your audio books that came with the physical book as well? I remember reading those avidly as a kid and loving them.
  • LR: I get most of mine at the library. I get the audio book and then just check out the physical book. They also have some that come as a set. I also use the free audio book stuff on Amazon Prime and get the book from the library.
  • DL: do you let your kids listen to them alone? I don’t let my kids have iPads so Idk how I would do the audio downloads and the book. Do u just Bluetooth it? Great idea, thanks for the suggestions!
  • LR: My kids don’t have tablets, either. I use the computer, mostly. And our radio to play CD/cassette. My partner has a smartphone, so we use that sometimes, too. And, yes. They do listen alone sometimes, especially if it’s a book we’re all familiar with.

Different timelines; different styles. Love of books kept mom from stressing about timing!

MB: My boys learned organically at ages 4, 4, and 8. The first two picked it up quickly on their own. The oldest asked for books to read by himself at age four so we got him some early phonics readers and he would read those to me. My middle son surprised me by just being able to read, no phonics books or assistance whatsoever. He was four, and I didn’t know he could read.

The thing that was the same was reading aloud to them, lap reading while following along with my finger and reading scripture at night having them repeat after me as I pointed to words for their one verse. My youngest was slower to pick it up and I was tempted to do ‘lessons’ but I knew that it wasn’t lessons that taught my other boys to read, and I wanted to give him the same opportunity to learn to read in his own time.

I continued reading aloud and reading scripture and I tried to make sure I continued lap reading (which turned into snuggle reading because I can’t see the book over his head if he sits on my lap). He’s also enjoyed audiobooks and had ‘read’ our complete canon of scripture on his own by the time he was eight.

Clearly he loved reading, he just couldn’t read the words on his own.

This helped to ease any worry. I kept introducing more books and usually he would say he just wanted to look at the pictures and didn’t try reading the words. When reading together sometimes we’d alternate pages in easy books and he’d read the words he could recognize or sound out. This summer he read a graphic novel on his own to me and then asked for a series of short chapter books that are adventure books like his brothers read. We looked online and found the Kingdom of Wrenly series. He’s hooked and has read 4 or 5 of them so far. He reads scripture on his own now. He can read nearly anything and reads for information now too. It clicked when he was ready. I’m so glad I waited for him.

  • DL: This is awesome. My 4 year old is totally rambunctious. He won’t follow along during scripture. He’ll repeat it from across the room as he throws balls around and plays cars, but he gets mad if I make him sit in my lap and follow the words. He gets bugged if I’m pointing to the words too while we read. I guess I’ll just keep on keeping on until he’s interested again? Haha
  • MB: I always back off if they seem uninterested. I’d rather have them love books and read later than be able to read and hate doing it. Sounds like you’re doing the right stuff. Invite and be the example.

Writing to read

BB: This isn’t entirely organic because she is at public school. I share because it’s a different path to reading. Last year my now 5 year old developed a strong desire to write. They were teaching some letters and sounds at school, but she wanted to write all the words. She spends half of her evenings asking me, “how do you spell…” She rarely asks the same word more than twice. Through the process of writing words down, she has learned what they look like. She now points out words on signs as we drive.

Reading aloud favorites until the child intuits the reading mechanics.

RH: My oldest I explicitly taught to read with a reading program. But my younger daughter would have none of the “tried and true” strategies I used with my oldest. She loved books, though, and I read lots of books aloud to her. Some stories we read so often that she was able to memorize them and soon recognize words from those stories elsewhere.

[RD notes: ^^THIS IS COOL!! I think a lot of people think of this as “cheating” or as an inferior way of teaching reading. That hasn’t been my experience, when a reading-rich environment is reinforced with phase-appropriate exposure to language elements.]

She loved to write and draw–letters and cards for family and friends and short little stories so she was really writing a lot before she could read well. Writing helped her learn high frequency words and practice phonetic spelling. Some people think reading has to come before writing, but in many cases it is the opposite. But the thing that really turned the corner for her was when she was in a musical theater production and she was motivated to learn her lines and read the script. Within a few months of theater she made huge leaps in her reading fluency. Once she knew she could tackle some of the big words in her play’s script, then she wasn’t as intimidated by longer passages in other literature. It’s all about finding whatever their passion is and for her theater was the key.

Writing came before reading, and as part of the process of learning to read.

RD: [this one is Rachel DeMille – the author of this post on]: For my kids, writing has come before reading.

  • CN: When you say writing came first, do you mean writing tool in hand on paper writing, or writing as to compose something to read? My older kiddos have been “writing stories” for years by dictating to me. They color plenty but my 7 year old is reading far beyond what some might call her expected readong level based on age/grade and she composes fantastic stories, but she still cries about putting pen to paper writing. my 5 year old loves to put pen to paper and write- it’s mostly nonsense, practicing her letters and writing her name, etc – and she *wants so badly* to read but isnt there yet, and can also dictate hilarious stories (often doing this while havimg a random book open in front of her claiming that she is “reading”).
  • AD: I am also curious what “writing before reading” looks like exactly!
  • DL: Yes, I would love to hear your experience!
  • JJ: Oh my goodness us too!!!
  • RD: Several asked what I meant by “writing has come before reading.” I’ll explain our organic process:

I’m saying, long before they can read, they start “writing” love notes with letters and, you know, ask me, “What does this say?” Then, somewhere along the way they know the names of most of the letters and will say, “how do you spell sister?” “How do you spell breakfast?” “How do you spell visit?” This helps them learn to read because they are using it and they are decoding as they write things down. Then in scripture study the pre-reader/emerging reader sits by me and if we come to a simple word – it starts with “the,” usually – and every time I come to that word I’ll pause and point, and they say it before I go on. Then we’ll add maybe “and.” Then maybe “so.” And so on. Then there are repetitive phrases that they take charge of when I pause and point, like “and it came to pass”. Before long they can read half the verse with me, and along the way they get to where the familiar names in the story are also in their wheelhouse, and pretty soon, Voila! They can read scriptures with the family. But this is of course chill and cuddly, so it’s no pressure. And meanwhile, the kids play the alphabet game in the car, I’ll ask them to get a can from the pantry and describe the color, the label image, and the first few letters of the word they’re looking for “o. l. i. v. e.”… Then, it’s “Hey – can you take a note down for my (while I’m driving)? There are things I’ll need at the store.” They spell out exactly what you ask for, but at the end of writing it down they can sort of see how those letters and those sounds come together to make that word. Then there’s family reading time where books are our love language. And the little ways in which playing sort of feeds into the reading opportunities – the property cards in Monopoly, a scavenger hunt with really simple clues, a rebus with pictures and sounds that come together to make a word code. You get the picture. This is how my kids learn to read organically.

  • RD: we’re 7 for 8, and our disabled son shows signs of being able to read as well. He’s got aphasia so it’s hard to accurately assess, but we’re all pretty sure he’s reading. 🙂
  • JJ: ^^ THAT!!! That is exactly how it goes for us too!
  • EL: Yes! My 6 year old daughter has been copying books in her own that she is very familiar with. I think she will be my earliest reader and her love of writing notes to everyone is helping her learn to read completely different than her older siblings learned. I love watching it!

Stop doing the way he hated, and go with the way he loved: actually reading.

JJ: I tried 100 Easy Lessons with my son at age 5. He knew the letter sounds and could already read simple short vowel words, like in the Cat in the Hat book, etc.. He hated the lesson book. He started saying he hated school. He didn’t want to learn HOW to read, he wanted TO read. The lessons use nonsense syllables that he couldn’t understand. But that being said, he has special needs and eventually really learned to read by memorizing whole words, and phonics is still kind of hard for him at age 24. But he does LOVE to read and was tested at age 18 and they said his comprehension was at age level. He still substitutes different words that look similar when reading aloud, but it doesn’t seem to affect his understanding (like he might mix up congratulate for congregate) or his immense LOVE of reading!!! In the end I taught him by reading to and with him. At first he wouldn’t even try to read after the experience with the lesson book. Then I would get him to identify letters, their sounds a few words, and eventually we took turns reading a page each. But it wasn’t until I bought the books Frog and Toad are Friends, and Little Bear in two treasuries. He wanted me to read them to him but the day I bought them I was busy sewing a costume for him and couldn’t get to it. So he decided to read them himself, to his little brother, while I sewed. He read what he could and would call out to me and spell the words he didn’t know asking me what it was. He later moved on to shorter chapter books, like The Magic Tree House and then things like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He prefers to read along with audio books but can read on his own quite well most of the time. He LOVES to read and is ALWAYS reading, despite having some slight challenges. I am glad we stopped doing it the way he hated and did it the way he loved…by actually reading.

  • CG: I would only use this book for children who struggle to figure out how to turn those letters into sounds.
  • JJ: My son did struggle (and still does at times) with sound blends, but for him it was silly to say nonsense words. It frustrated him. He wanted real words, and real reading. Bottom line for me though was how he was saying he hated school (we did maybe 15-20 minute lessons with the book each day for maybe 2 weeks). Definitely NOT what I wanted him to feel about learning.
  • CG: No, definitely not. I used it a lot more sparingly. Like 5 minutes a day, whenever he was willing. It took us probably 18 months to get through 55 lessons and then he was bored with it and took off reading. Of course, every child is different. I hated the book the first time I looked into it as well. This time around I paid less attention to their way. It’s very “Say this”.

Repetition; daily scripture study.

DD: I used the old Dick & Jane books with my kids. Repetition plays a huge part. We also read scriptures EVERY day from the time my kids were about 18 months old…they learned organically by sitting on my lap or next to me and I would point at the words as I said it…then they would say the words as I pointed at them…and their desire to read more and more words grew…

  • [RD: This is how it works in our house, too….]

Sight reading select words on parent’s lap

TM: My oldest is only 6, but she’s doing great with reading. I read a lot for myself, as well as out loud with my kids. They tend to pick up books and”read” (make up stories, tell the story from picture, pretend they are reading) from when they are very young.

We played games with letters, one of her favorites when she was learning letters, sounds, and sight words was to hang them on a wall and she’d hit them with a clean fly swatter. Another is sidewalk chalk-wiring letters, she’d stomp or jump on them, say their sound or name.

When she was first learning and we’d read together, I would give her one or two words and use my finger as I read, she would read her words when they came up.

Now when we read, if there is a word she doesn’t know after trying to sound it out or say it, then I’ll give her the first sound or syllable and she can usually figure it out from there.

Ever since she started to learn words, when she “reads” her scriptures, she looks for words she knows and highlight them. Now that she can read while verses, she reads more and doesn’t do as much highlighting.

I found if I ever tried to force it, she just pushed back and wouldn’t want to do any reading for a couple of days. If I just offer it, and let her come to me when she is ready or wanting to do more, then it is smooth and she picks up on it quickly.

  • DL: Awesome! How old was your daughter when you played these games? So at some point you did try and teach her how to sound words out?
  • TM: She was young. She knew the alphabet in Spanish before she was two… I just provided the stuff and invited her to join in.I didn’t do anything formal. With sounding out words I think it came from reading together. I would give her a few words for her to read and try to have them with the same ending sound, so she kind of picked up on it that way. And then when she knew basic words and she would ask about a new word, if it was phonetic, then I’d say each sound individually slowly, then faster.My 4 year old is a different story. She has just recently started showing interest in learning letter sounds. She can identify most letters by name, but not all. She really likes writing the letters though. I have gone through the activities with her and my 6 year old at the same time, but she just hasn’t been interested. She’ll join in for a bit but ends up doing her own thing.And then I have a 2 year old who knows some of the letters already not all by name, but by who has that letter in their name. If she sees a D she’ll say “daddy” if she sees an M O or W she’ll say, “mommy” if she sees the letters that start with her sisters names she’ll say their names. It’s been interesting to see how each one has grasped the them, and what had caught their attention.

Eclectic resources for fun; kids pick it up organically.

JR: We start with Zoo Phonics just for fun. ❤️❤️ Since my kids have all asked me to teach them to read, we then begin Phonics Pathways with a few Happy Phonics games thrown in. Secret Stories is also a fun addition.

To be honest, we have never finished the Phonics Pathways book because my kids have sort of organically and instinctively started reading on their own after the first several lessons and the book then became something like busywork. Pathway readers have been an excellent introduction to independent reading.

Letters and sounds part of everyday; keeping it fun and pressure-free.

SB: My son when he was 4 or 5, he liked workbooks and started getting interested in the letters and phonics. When he was looking at the workbooks, I would help him with the sounds. We would play little games with letters and sounds. Then when we would read I would ask him if he could sound out some words. It was always just in a fun way, never would I make him do it, or say “now we are going to learn to read”. We read a lot together, he always loved books.

Lap reading sight words, following along with parent; chants for phonic awareness

LD: For me, it started with memorization. A great book for that is Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr.
For my daughter it also started with “how do you spell…?”

Also, as you read aloud the easier books, delay the word and see if they will say it for you (and follow along with your finger so they see the word as they say it) For example: Read: Jack and Jill went up the… Then pause and see if they will say hill.

Also help them start to recognize sounds of words. When a child starts to develop reading readiness, we begin a family stutter of sorts. B-B-Bear, SSSSSsnake, D-D-Dog. Or even at the end of words nooooo, dolllllll.

Oh, but my son is definitely a whole-to-part learner. So he does better reading labels. So we label all the things in the house that can be labeled without causing issues.

Articles on Reading Readiness and Acquisition

KR: My favorite articles about learning to read: