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Strategies for Encouraging Young Readers

Reading doesn’t always come easy to students, even though it serves as the basis for understanding the majority of subjects. As an educator, it can be hard to push early literacy in students who can’t grasp concepts their peers may excel in. We have a few strategies you might find helpful to implement in the classroom that not only aid struggling readers, but also do so through fun methods that leave readers feeling encouraged.

1. Get Children Moving!

A Sentence Tells a Little Story

This activity supports the understanding of basic sentence structure.

How to Do It

  1. Tell the children that a sentence is a group of words that go together to give a complete idea. Explain that by themselves the words cannot do much, but all together they make sense and tell a little story.
  2. Ask the children to stand. Choose a word to be your subject, such as dog. Tell children that, when you say dog, they are to freeze in a dog pose. Look at the children and say, “Dog.”
  3. Pick and action word that goes with the subject. Tell the class that you will give them an action to do as dogs. Say, for example, jumps, skips, wiggles, hops, or crawls, and let the children act out the verb.
  4. Ask them to freeze in a dog post again. Tell them you will give them a descriptive word to tell how the dog is moving—an adverb. Offer and adverb, such as fast, slowly, crazily, or sleepily.
  5. Say the whole sentence, pausing between words. Encourage the children act out the sentence. The dog (pause) craws (pause) slowly (pause).
  6. Put the three parts together without pauses and let the children act out the sentence. Pause at the end of the sentence, and say, “That is a sentence!”
  7. Change the adverbs to let the children act out the sentences in different ways. Ask the class, “How did the dog crawl?” Let them answer you.

Expand It!

  • Encourage the children to take turns making their own sentences. Give them a subject, and ask them to offer sentences for the class to act out.

Find even more ways to incorporate movement and early literacy in Deborah Michals’ book Up, Down, Move Around Math and Literacy.

2. Make it a Game!

Increase alphabet recognition, social skills, motor skills, and develop phonological awareness in students with teacher-made props! Here are a few simple games to creative a love of reading in children:

Dinosaur Feet:

  • Cut out dinosaur feet from construction paper using the patter below. If possible, laminate for durability. Write letters on the feet and scatter them around the room. Invite the children to take turns walking, hopping, or tiptoeing on the feet as they name the letters. Can the children put the feet in alphabetical order?

Egg Match:

  • You will need plastic eggs and a permanent marker for this game. Write an uppercase letter on one half of the egg and the matching lowercase letter on the other half. Take the eggs apart and place them in a basket or box. Invite the children to match the letters as they put the eggs together.

Beanbag Toss:

  • Make a beanbag by placing a cup of small pebbles or beads in an old sock. Wrap a rubber band around the foot of the sock, and then fold the cuff back over the toe.
  • Draw a grid on a large piece of the poster board or bulletin board paper (three squares across and four squares down). Write different letters in each square. Have children stand behind a designated line and toss the beanbag. What letter does it land on? Can they think of a word that begins with that sound?

Find even more games to play for letter recognition in Jean Feldman and Holly Karapetkova’s I Love Letters!

3. Take it Outside!

Sometimes, all children need is a change of scenery and an extra dose of fun to make letters fall into place. Here is a fun activity from Let's Take it Outside that you can do with toddlers to increase letter recognition.

Fun with Swirly Letters!


  • Bowl of water for rinsing hands
  • Shaving cream
  • Table with a smooth surface, or several trays

What to Do:

This is an activity that can be taken outside on a warm day!

  • Squire some shaving cream onto the tabletop or the trays.
  • Depending on the ages of the children, either let them play freely in the slippery soap. Or ask them to imitate the letters and shapes you draw.
  • Replenish the shaving cream as needed.

Children’s Book

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Though early literacy can be a struggle for some, there are a variety of learning approaches that can be taken to ensure all students progress; just make sure you’re up for trying new things!

Have ideas for making early literacy easier for kids? Share them with us by commenting below.

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