Teach Your Kids To Read- Inexpensively and Effectively

Whether you are homeschooling or simply want to help your kids get a good start at school, you don’t have to invest in expensive curricula to help your kids read. You can help your child get a good foundation in phonics and reading using free or fairly inexpensive resources.

Teach As Your Child Is Ready

I’m going to list ideas below, but I want to encourage you- every child is different; and every child is ready to read at different ages. I have a dear friend whose sons are already raised (and they turned out quite well, which is why I went to her for advice) who told me that she opened a book with her oldest when he was at the age other kids start school. He got frustrated and concerned- it was too hard for him. She just shut the book and said, “That’s okay, Sweetie. We’ll try this again next year.” When she opened it the next year, he was ready, and it went smoothly. Go with what works best for your child and read a ton to them and in front of them so they can learn to love reading.

Ideas for Teaching Kids To Read- Just Ideas

I wanted to share some ideas to help you get ideas flowing. I use a number of things I already had on hand from teaching ESL, and most of those I got at consignment sales or in dollar bins at Target. Just know-these are just ideas from what I use. You don’t have to use the ones I suggest. Let them spark ideas for you and your child so that you can use what you have on hand or can find inexpensively.

Subjects to Incorporate

  1. Phonics

  2. Reading

  3. Sight Words

  4. Writing

Great Resource Ideas


Learning letter sounds: Now, I know videos aren’t recommended by doctors, but another homeschool mom I know recommended Leapfrog Letter Factory and Leapfrog Talking Words Factory, and they have been super! Both of my boys were pretty solid on letter sounds at age 2 primarily from watching Letter Factory every now and then. I found this video pack with Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Let’s Go to School plus really nice Letter Flash Cards for just $10.

Phonics Curriculum: I had Systematic Sequential Phonics They Use on hand from ESL teaching, and it has been great with my son. He was solid on letter sounds when we started this. It’s designed to be used with a Word Wall and a large class, but it has been great with some letter cards on the floor or table and my son. I read instructions and he sounds out and makes words, moving letters into the correct order (building up to 5 letter words in the first lesson). The cheapest I see the phonics book for is a download you could print out for $15 on Google Play.

Movable Letter Cards: I found these letter cards for $1 at a consignment sale.

Games and Learning Tools: Checkout the games and learning section of your local consignment sales like Just Between Friends and Trading Hands in your area- excellent! I have found a ton of great phonics games and tools at these for cheap. Here are some of what I found:

  1. Boggle Junior    ($5 Consignment)
  2. Sequence Letters ($4 Consignment)
  3. Phonics Tiles ($2 Consignment)

Free Online Resources: Many people are sharing great ideas for free online. This site has a ton of great stuff: The Measured Mom

Use What You Have: There are tons of great resources out there. If you already have one, go with it.

Free Printable Kids Books

  • We use Reading A-Z’s High Frequency Word Book Series . They have a free 14 day trial. Tip: you can download a good amount of the series (I think the first 2 sets) in the trial period- BUT- you have to be consistent and come back regularly. You can only download so many in a day. Sign up for the trial when you know you can come back more than one day to get your max free.
  • Set 1 we used when my child was 3/4. This school year, he will be 4/5 and we’ve been working through Set 2. Kids learn at all different ages, so it really just depends on your kid and where they are at.
  • Check out Book 1 of Set 1. I love the way it teaches one word “a” but allows the kids to read the book through using pictures for the other words. It gave my son confidence to read right from the start!
  • When a book is new, I always read it to him first and point out new words before asking him to read it. I also really encourage him to keep his finger under whatever word he is reading and to move it as he reads.
  • There are a ton of other options for free printable kids books. Just start with the lowest levels and build up!

Sight Words

  • Print sight words by grade easily from sites like this: Dolch Word List
  • Review the words your kids learn regularly.
  • Printable kids books usually have word lists in the front of the book. The series I mentioned above makes clear which words kids should be familiar with and which are new in each book. We just keep it simple and stick with the words he already knows for review.


  • My son loves to write on a chalkboard, so a lot of our writing happens here. We might pick the new words in his Reading A-Z High Frequency Word books. Here are things we do:
    • I write out 2-5 newer words, having him sound them out with me one by one.
    • I ask him to circle “the” in yellow chalk. Draw an X on “go” with blue chalk. Draw a square around “have” with white chalk (for example).
    • Then it’s his turn. He picks a word or two, writes them on the board, and tells me what to do with the word (Because it’s his turn to be teacher). From my experience, when you teach something, you learn it better, and when a kids loves to play teacher, capitalize on that!
  • Target Dollar Spot has a lot of great resources, like wipe-off practice books. Check out these resources for the fall of 2016
  • I’m a big fan of the Usborne wipe-off books. My son seems to really like these. We just have the First Letters one and a numbers one.
  • Good old fashioned wide ruled paper and guidance on how to write the letters or paper with guides indented to help keep the pencil following the curves of the letters. Basically, it is like the letters are pressed into the paper so you can see and feel where the pencil needs to go. For example Mead See and Feel Learn to Letter or Mead See and Feel Learn to Letter 4 in 1.

In sum, I do one unit of the phonics materials, have him read one book, work a little on sight words, and do some writing each school day. I have a lot of friends who use more complicated curriculum, and I probably will invest in something more like that later on. For now, though, on a limited budget, this has worked great for me. If my kid can read and likes books, that’s enough for me.

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