How do I Build Reading Skills

How do I build reading skills?

Reading should be in context and for a purpose as much as possible but short, fun, focussed skill building sessions can be really helpful. Try not to let a skill session go for more than 15 minutes, but do them every day for best effect.

Sight Words:

  • There are about 200 words that make up a large percentage of what we read. Being able to easily recognise each of these words will give them a lot of confidence.
  • You could use Dolch, Fry, Magic 200 or any other list. It doesn’t really matter.
  • You can use flash cards, games, or an App like our Parrotfish Sight Words App for practice.


  • Phonics skills should be taught at the same time as Sight Words. This is much harder for parents to get right, a good phonics app (Parrotfish Phonics introduces the sounds in the accepted order) will help. Start with single sounds then as they know some of them use them to build simple 3 letter words such as cat, ham etc then sh, th, wh, qu, ch, then progress to longer blended letters. From here there are the pairs of letters such as oa, ea, ai, ar, er, ..
  • Blending – when shown a word they say the sounds and join them together to ”sound out” the word.
  • Segmenting – they write or tell you the sounds that make up a word that is said to them.


  • Write a sentence, read it with them then cut it up. Get them to make the sentence. Ensure they read it to see if it makes sense.
  • See if they can make other sentences with some, or all, of the words.
  • Teach them to look for a capital letter at the beginning and a full stop or question mark at the end
  • Make the sentence and hide one of the words. Have them read the sentence and work out what is missing. Think of any other words that could make sense.

Don’t forget real world situations. Look at road signs, shopping lists, signs and labels anything that is written. Learning to read is like learning any other skill, it is made up of sub skills that all need to be learned and practised. The more practice they get the faster they will progress towards mastery and the better they will cope with learning in other subject areas.