Reading Tips

How to Teach Decoding Skills to Kids

Teaching children to read is a monumental (and sometimes scary!) task. Let’s start by learning how to teach decoding skills to kids.

A Wholistic Reading Approach

Reading is a foundational life skill that we teach our little ones in the early years of their life. The goal of reading is not simply to teach children read words and read them quickly. Instead, we want our kiddos to read to understand a new text.

A wholistic reading approach focuses on helping children learn and grow in all areas of reading in order to achieve understanding as they read.

How to Teach Decoding Skills to Kids

What is “decoding”?

The word “decoding” is used in the educational world when discussing the topic of reading. It simply means “sounding out words.”

To new readers, letters put together to form words are like a code. We as parents and teachers have the responsibility to teach our little ones to understand the code in order to break it.

Therefore, our little readers become “decoders” by sounding out letters and blending letter sounds to figure out the word. This process is called “decoding.”

How do I teach decoding skills?

Reading cannot be done without the ability to decode words. To begin this process, I cannot stress enough the importance of phonics.

Phonics lays a foundation of letter sounds and blends that will give your child the tools they need to decode words. A solid foundation in phonics will also help children with their spelling skills. There are many excellent phonics programs and resources that will walk you through phonics instruction with your child.

The ABC song is catchy and adorable, but remember, it’s the letter SOUNDS that really count! Focus your time and energy on finding fun ways to practice letter sounds with your young reader rather than singing the ABCs.

When your child begins reading to you, it is both exciting and painful. It is exciting to see our children begin their first steps in learning an important life skill, but it can be painfully slow to read with them at first . . . and that’s okay! Stick with it!

If your child stumbles on a word, instead of just telling them the word, give them a chance to use their decoding skills. Encourage them to sound out the letters and blends before putting the word together. Still can’t figure it out? Sound it out with them! Help your child hear those letter sounds in action and empower them to figure it out on their own the next time.

This stage of reading can be hard and laborious, for both you and for your child. But remain upbeat, encouraging, and stick with it! Your child will be reading on their own in no time. And who knows? You might miss the days when the two of you had to work on reading together.


As parents, we often stress about our children learning to read. Decoding skills are foundational for our children’s literacy. In order to build strong decoding skills in our children, we need to be focusing on phonics.

Remember, we want to give our kiddos the tools to use to figure any new word they come across in the future. While there are some words that children will have to memorize (because they break all of our phonics rules), ultimately we want our little ones to be able to apply their phonics knowledge to learning to read new words and eventually become independent, problem-solving readers.

Decoding is foundational to reading, yes, but teach your kiddos that letters create a code, and they are the decoding detectives with a mission to break the code! Don’t stress and have fun!

Happy decoding!

Looking for other posts?

A Wholistic Reading Approach

The Importance of Building Background Knowledge

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