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How to Teach Reading to Preschoolers (Age 3-5)

Dhara Shah
Published Apr 08, 2021
Updated Oct 29, 2023

Co-authored with Ritvvij Parrikh.

We’ve always supported Sabi’s quest to cultivate a reading habit. From her early days in daycare and kindergarten, she made strides in language acquisition. However, the pandemic lockdowns shifted education online, and her progress slowed.

In this article, we’ll discuss Sabi’s reading evolution, from her exposure to phonics to her mastery of intricate words. We’ll also highlight the invaluable tools and obstacles we encountered along the way.


Months 1-8: Focus on Phonics

Sabi’s formal reading journey began at age 4 with the Fitzroy book series, which introduced alphabets and corresponding sounds systematically. This step-by-step approach solidified her grasp of phonics.

We supplemented Fitzroy with the Khan Academy Kids app, featuring characters like Kodi that articulated sounds. Regular repetition bolstered her phonemic discernment.

Sabi effortlessly grasped basic sounds like ‘m,’ ‘b,’ and ‘d’. However, bledning sounds, especially complex pairings such as ‘c&h’ and ‘s&h,’ took her longer. The concept of blending sounds was challenging for her.

Enter Mumma Mam

Grasping phonics wasn’t smooth sailing for Sabi. During a challenging phase, we introduced the character of “Mumma Mam” to make learning more engaging and maintain a positive environment.

‘Mumma’ is jovial and warm-hearted figure. But at 5 pm every day, she would don glasses and a headgear, transforming into “Mumma Mam.” Three-year-old Sabi would concentrate on her lessons during Mumma Mam’s presence.

Once the 30-minute session concluded, ‘Mumma Mam’ would revert to conversing with ‘Mumma’.

Months later, Sabi suddenly grasped blending sounds, leading to a noticeable leap in her reading capability. Her newfound understanding allowed her to proficiently join words and identify phonetic patterns.

Is it a Mumma? Is it a Mumma Mam?

The English Conundrum

As Sabi advanced, she encountered the peculiarities of the English language, like phonetic inconsistencies. For instance, she pronounced “gender” as “gen-der” and “island” as “is-land.” This added another layer of complexity.

To make learning more interactive, we played Scrabble with her.


Months 9-12: “Read Out Aloud” with Epic Books

We introduced Sabi to Epic Books, a platform with read-aloud stories. The books were visually appealing, with narrations that emphasized each word. This audiovisual combination strengthened Sabi’s language comprehension.

Over the months from July to October, Sabi devoted 1-2 hours each day to Epic Books, culminating in 225 hours and 2095 short books completed.


Reading Parties 🥳 🎉

With Sabi’s phonics foundation in place, we wanted to nurture her love of reading. Every evening, we held reading parties, sometimes including family members, either over a call or at the park.


Transition to Physical Books

Sabi became preoccupied with her iPad, using it more for leisure than learning. She’d often get sidetracked and end up watching cartoons on YouTube. Recognizing this, we decided to steer her back to tangible books.

Bob Books

Sabi started with The Bob Books series, a set of 50 small books full of rhymes. They came in three levels: Starting to Read, Emerging Readers, and Developing Readers.

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Piggie and Gerald

Sabi developed a real passion for reading with the Piggie and Gerald books. They’re simple like the Bob Books but touch on real-life topics like friendship and emotions. She loved the characters’ appearance and personalities, and the writing style encouraged her to play with her voice when reading aloud.

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Read It Yourself with Ladybird

When Sabi turned 4, we introduced her to the Ladybird “Read It Yourself” Series, Levels 1 and 2. At first, the longer, non-rhyming sentences were challenging for her. But with repeated readings, she mastered them and read all the books by herself.

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The “US Borne” Series

From this series, we chose 15 books that helped Sabi achieve a reading proficiency slightly more advanced than the Ladybird series.


A Classic Case of Dr. Seuss

Years after we first read Dr. Seuss books to Sabi, she picked them up and read them aloud by herself.

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Disney Classics

Sabi received Disney Classics books as a gift from her aunt. They were more challenging for her age group, with big words and long sentences. Still, we read them to her, pointing to each word as we went.

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By May 2021, Sabi was confidently reading beginner-level books. She was so engrossed in her reading that she would sometimes pick up a book even when it wasn’t the right time. 🙈🙉🙊


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