Article Can I help my child learn to read?

I’m often asked: Can I help my child learn to read, even though I’m not a teacher?

My answer is: Yes. Teachers are not the only people who can teach reading.

In fact, not being a teacher can even be a help when it comes to teaching reading, because parents often understand much better than many teachers seem to do – that words must be sounded out! Parents just aren’t sure how to teach sounding out and blending.

If your child can’t read, or is noticeably behind his or her classmates in reading, then your child is lacking some essential basic knowledge about reading. Your child can start learning this knowledge by watching my free Introduction to Phonemic Awareness Package videos, which explains how written English works.

Then, I recommend that you take your child through my inexpensive Phonemic Awareness Video Course, which teaches the sounds of English, and how to separate the sounds in words, and how to blend sounds back into a word.



The most important thing you need to know is that it’s essential that you take action, because reading problems don’t fix themselves. To work out what sort of problem your child or student has, just ask yourself:.

Does my child:

  • guess when reading?
  • try to ‘read the pictures’? or
  • look at the first letter of a word and appear to randomly choose a word that starts with that sound?
  • look at the ‘shape’ to the word on the page and appear to randomly choose a word of a similar shape?
  • look at the length of the word and choose a word of similar length as that word ?


If so, then he or she is confused about how reading works – the reading problem your child has is likely to be what I call teachlexia. By that I mean the reason your child:

  • guesses;
  • attempts to ‘read pictures’; and
  • tries to read words according to their first letter, shape, or length

is because that’s how he or she has been taught to read by a teacher.


Teachers don’t come right out and say: “Just look at the word, and guess what it is!” Instead, they say:

  • “Don’t sound out the word, just look at it and say it”, or
  • “We learned this word last week, try to remember what it is; or
  • “What word would make sense here?”

Any sensible student knows that this means that you have to rely on your own input when you read, rather than relying on what is already on the page. So, in other words, you have to GUESS! This means reading doesn’t make sense.


If I told you to read numbers like that, you’d think I was a nutter, with good reason.

Reading taught in this way, doesn’t work. This way of reading is not consistent with the way English was designed to work. Yes, written English was deliberately designed to work a certain way – it didn’t just happen all by itself.

So it’s not your child’s fault that he or she guesses or ‘reads pictures’; the child’s been told that’s how you read! That’s why students are offended when the’re told: “Don’t guess!” when they come up with a seemingly random word. According to what they’ve been told, they’re reading, npt guessing!

So, see your child learns the truth about how reading works. I teach that information in the FREE Introduction to Phonemic Awareness Package videos.



The second thing you need to know about reading problems is that the problem can be fixed. To fix the problem, your child needs to re-learn how to read. The way the child is taught needs to be consistent with the way English really works, and what the child is taught needs to be consistent with the way English works.

Once your child understands how written English works, I would recommend he or she works through the Phonemic Awareness Video Course. It’s inexpensive, less than 3 hours long, and teaches all the essential pre-reading skills. By the end of the course, students:

  • have been taught all of the sounds in English;
  • can say the separate sounds in 2-3 letter words; and
  • can blend 2-3 sounds back into words.

.Students who have mastered these skills are ready to learn letters and start reading words.



Once students are ready to learn letters, they must learn to read using a quality phonics-based learn to read course. In the phonics article on the website, I explain what I mean by a good quality phonics course. Here’s a brief summary of what a quality phonics-based learn to read course will cover:

A good phonics course covers the 3 layers of written English:

  1. the Basic layer – one sound is shown by one letter e.g. sound /d/ = d in dog. [The slash marks around a letter mean I’m referring to its sound, not the letter name];
  2. the Intermediate layer – one sound is shown by two (or more) letters e.g. sound /or/ in ordinary dots; and
  3. the Advanced (or Foreign) layer – how we write sounds in words we’ve taken from foreign languages e.g. /f/ = ph in photo, and /g/ = gh in ghost.



You could use:

  • the phonics-based course of your choice;
  • the phonics-based course  used at your child’s school; or
  • one of the phonics-based courses I’ve listed on the Articles page under Courses.


So, can you help your child learn to read? Yes. There is no need for your child to continue to fail in reading.