Teaching Kids To Read: Even Before They Can Speak

March is National Reading Month, and there are many ways to help inspire a child’s desire to read—even before they can speak!


Language is processed in the brain’s left side, while visual images like sign language are processed in the brain’s right side. Simultaneously activating both sides of the brain can be an extremely powerful learning tool. Gesturing also allows children to communicate knowledge before they are verbal, and this can influence their cognitive state.

Shelby Rideout—who taught each of her four kids to sign, identify letters, and even read by the age of two—shared her tips for teaching kids to read.

Be consistent.

Read EVERYDAY with your child/baby. By reading each day with your child, you are creating a habit and exposing them to spoken and written language. Babies and children take in massive amounts of language from ages 0-3; that early language is the foundation upon which future literacy is built.

Follow along with your index finger as you read each word.

This gives children a focal point to connect what is being spoken to what is written. Children begin to naturally recognize sight words and make other language connections simply by seeing what they are hearing.

Make an association between reading and receiving special attention.

Sit close, snuggle, laugh, be encouraging and have FUN! Let’s be honest, we all like to participate in activities that are fun; take your children to the library and seek out other educational activities in your area.

Don’t let them be passive listeners

Build your child’s confidence by having them identify things on the page that they DO know i.e. colors, shapes, animal, sounds animals make, sight words etc. Rather than being passive listeners, allow your children to experience the joys of being active participants in reading. Make your reading time together as interactive as possible.

Teach them sign language

Bright Signs Learning encourages children to use signs and gestures giving your child the added benefits of learning kinesthetically (learning by doing), as well as communicating early. Sign language gives children the opportunity to communicate before they have the ability to do so verbally. Language and reading is processed in the left side of the brain while sign language and visual stimuli are processed in the right side of the brain. Using sign language to introduce reading gives children additional pathways from which they can retrieve information.


We all know kids love watching the same videos over and over or reading the same books over and over- this is important, as repetition is a key ingredient in learning. Reading is like any other skill in life…it takes practice. The more practice you have, the better you will get.

Incorporate reading into play

Look for toys that incorporate reading concepts i.e. foam letters for the tub, alphabet puzzles, flashcards, educational videos etc. The most effective learning happens when children are having fun. When many people think of flashcards they think of drilling your kids. On the contrary, flashcards are a great tool for creating learning games. Play hide and seek with them, have children jump, dance and run to them!



Shelby Luke Rideout is the creator of Bright Signs Learning, the award-winning multi-sensory program designed to inspire children ages 0 to 4 to read by uniting sign language and gesturing with early reading concepts. As a mother of four and professional sign language expert with credentials in education (Vanderbilt University) and sign language (Pierce College), Shelby has firsthand knowledge of the many benefits sign language has on early learning. In 2012, she began making her own educational home videos in her basement, teaching each of her own children to use sign language to communicate, identify letters, and even read by the age of 2. 
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