Unlock Literacy: How to Teach Someone to Read

Unlock Literacy: How to Teach Someone to Read

As human beings, we have built an intricate world around ourselves through the use of language. However, that same language can seem like an impenetrable barrier to those who struggle with reading. It is a challenge that can hamper people’s lives, from disrupting their education to limiting their career opportunities. Unfortunately, reading problems are widespread; it is estimated that one in five people in America shows signs of dyslexia, a reading disorder that makes it harder to absorb written language. But it is possible to help such people using the right techniques. This guide will cover the basics of teaching someone to read, so those who struggle can learn the skills that will boost their confidence and allow them to enjoy the written word.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is intended for anyone who wants to help someone close to them overcome their reading difficulties – whether it is a family member, a friend, or a student. The reader of this guide does not need to have any special training or qualifications. All they need is patience, understanding, and a willingness to learn.

Before you start

Before starting your teaching journey, it is essential to assess what the intended student’s reading level is and tailor your approach accordingly. Make a checklist of things you want to cover and worksheets or exercises you want to use to help your student learn to read.

Some of the critical elements to keep in mind when considering your approach are age, ability, and experience. For example, a young child may require a more interactive and playful approach, while an adult may want to focus on specific risks to their career or personal life due to illiteracy.

Moreover, if the student has already received some tutoring with little success, consider adapting your methods to avoid what did not work last time, and use tactics that align with the student’s interests.

Understanding Phonics

Phonics is a teaching method used to help students understand how sounds relate to alphabet letters, and it is essential in a person’s development of reading fluency. Phonics helps students recognize the written words and, once they reach mastery, can decipher unfamiliar written words by putting the sounds together.

When teaching someone to read, the first and most crucial step is to teach the phonics basics. Building your student’s phonemic awareness by explicitly focusing on sound recognition, letter matching, and sound production is key to achieving solid reading capabilities.

With phonics, there are some core competencies that the child or individual must understand to be successful. These are:

Letter Recognition: Knowing the twenty-six letters of the alphabet and their sounds.

Letter-Sound Correspondence: Knowing which sounds associate with which letters.

Blending: The skill involved in listening to individual sounds and combining them to form words.

Segmentation: Being able to break apart and recognize individual sounds within words.

Sight Words: Words that have to be committed to memory and recognized as a whole.

Syllables: The parts that make up words and their sounds.

These skills are learned over time with practice. Give your student plenty of opportunities to practice and reinforce their understanding of these concepts. Here are some essential strategies and activities that you could use to develop solid phonics skills:

1. Basic Letter Recognition

The building block of phonics is learning letter recognition. You can start by teaching consonant and vowel letters each day through a combination of reading and writing. Use both upper and lowercase letters to ensure students can recognize them in any format.

2. Letter-Sound Correspondence

Teaching letter-sound correspondence involves showing your student what sound each letter makes. Make it fun by using colorful or pictorial charts and then involve your student to pronounce the sounds with you.

3. Blending

Blending is a crucial skill since it involves combining sounds to create words, one of the main goals of phonics. Use flashcards with simple words and have your student read and pronounce them, breaking down each sound to form the word.

4. Segmenting

Segmenting helps your student identify the individual sounds that make up a word. You can begin by using compound words like “cowboy” or “baseball,” isolating each half of the word and pronouncing each one to ensure they can hear the different sounds that make up the word.

5. Sight Words

Sight words, also known as high-frequency words, are commonly occurring words such as “the,” “can,” “of,” “and,” “a,” and “is.” These words are taught through sight recognition, so students learn them by heart rather than sounding them out. Use flashcards to ensure your student recognizes them quickly.

6. Syllables

Syllables typically include a vowel sound with one or more accompanying consonants. They are useful for breaking down words that might seem too challenging at first, and once you have taught your student to identify syllables, you can begin to teach them about prefixes and suffixes to help them in their reading.

Phrasing, Fluency, and Retention

Once your student has a solid grasp of phonics fundamentals, it is time to teach them how to read with more fluency and comprehension. Fluent readers read quickly and accurately, with appropriate emphasis and inflection. Here are some tips to help students improve their fluency:

1. Repetition

Encouraging your student to read the same passages repeatedly can help their fluency to develop. Practice “pair-reading,” where both you and the student read the same reading material aloud together.

2. Phrasing

Phrasing typically means grouping words in such a way that convey meaning more effectively. This teaching technique involves teaching your student to recognize where in a sentence to pause or where to stress certain words.

3. Modeling Reading

Children typically learn by seeing and copying an activity. Therefore, incorporating reading materials or material that interest your students and reading aloud to them can attract and motivate them to read.

4. Sight Phrases

High-frequency phrases are collections of common phrases – such as “at the park” or “in the sun” – that students can learn by sight. This technique can help students improve their reading rate as they learn to read whole phrases quickly.

5. Comprehension

Comprehension is understanding what has been read. Comprehension can be improved by discussing the material with the student, asking questions about the text’s content, and identifying the themes within what was read.


Learning to read is an essential skill, and if you want to help someone achieve that goal, it is essential to apply the right techniques and strategies. The lockdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier to teach someone how to read since parents, or guardians have more time to spend with their children. Ensure that there are no distractions in your vicinity, and take this as a time to bond and learn together with your child. Although teaching someone to read can be challenging, the satisfaction that comes with seeing them get better at it is worth every hurdle that you will encounter in the process.


There are plenty of resources online and offline that can help any person with their reading. Here are just a few of the top resources available to help teach someone how to read:

1. Starfall – an interactive website primarily designed for young children to develop their alphabet and phonics skills.

2. Reading Bear – A fantastic site with a robust, free phonics program that makes use of several instructional videos.

3. Reading Rockets – A website that provides additional information and advice to help support individuals with reading difficulties.

4. Phonics vs. Whole Language Reading – a blog post that provides tips emphasizing what to concentrate on to help individuals learning to read.

5. “What is an Explicit Phonics Approach to Teaching Reading” – a blog post that provides an extensive overview of an explicit phonics approach to teaching reading.

6. Sonlight – This company offers reading programs and kits that you can use to help teach a student who’s struggling with reading.

7. Hooked on Phonics – A program designed to assist early learners in developing their phonics and reading skills at home.

8. Lexia Learning – An online resource that provides personalized reading and phonics lessons to meet individual student needs.

High Authority Links from Reputable Sources

To back up some of the recommendations and advice given in this guide, below are some links to more authoritative sites on the subject of teaching someone to read:

1. How to Teach Someone to Read (Without Losing Your Mind) – Lifehacker

2. How to Teach Someone to Read – Really Good Stuff

3. Teaching Someone To Read: Easy Steps To Help A Beginner Reader – Learning how to read

4. Teaching Someone How To Read: A Guide To Get Started – ThoughtCo.

5. How To Teach Someone To Read If You’ve Never Done It Before – HuffPost

Remember, there is no “one size fits all” solution when teaching someone to read. Everyone is different and learns at different rates. What’s important is that you are patient and motivated in helping your students develop strong reading skills. If you keep at it, you’ll be amazed at your students’ successes!

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