Learning to Read Phase 1: Pretend Reading

Kobi_Learning to Read Guide_Pretend Reading
Pretend Reading is the initial stage of the learning to read process. Find out what to expect, get fun exercises, and an executable plan.

Article Structure
The article is separated into four parts. The theory, possible issues for struggling readers, the recommended exercises, and an executable plan.

Feel free to skip to any of the parts that you are interested in or read the whole article.

Skip to:
Possible Issues
Recommended Exercises
Executable Plan


Learning to read is important because we interact with the world through the written word. A LOT. Writing emails, Facebook posts, reading instructions, sending text messages, or even just seeing a sign when driving to a new destination. A lot of our daily interactions are based on the written word.

Reading is also a very good predictor for academic success, according to Michigan State University. Yet less and less time is spent reading and teaching our kids to read. We are letting our kids jump straight to YouTube and TikTok videos.

Did you know, only 25% of children learn to read without any difficulties? That means 3 in 4 kids are left with some kind of issues when learning to read. The following guide was written for parents of these 3 in 4 kids.

The following article is the first in the series of four articles.

Phase 1: Pretend Reading (Kids aged 6 months – 6 years)
Phase 2: Learning Phonics (Kids aged 5 – 7)
Phase 3: Blending (Kids aged 5 – 7)
Phase 4: Reading (Kids aged 8+)

Phase One of Learning to Read:
Pretend Reading

Pretend Reading is the initial stage of the reading process. During this first phase, children are getting familiar with sounds, simple words, images, and other concepts related to reading. They can recognize these concepts from stories, previously read to them. Through these concepts, they get a first feel for the world around them and how language, letters, words, and images work together in order to create a story.

Children get their first feel for the world around them through images, words, and letters.

What your child needs to understand

The aim of this phase is to prepare your kid for the learning to read process. The goal is to familiarize the kid with concepts, such as letters, words, sounds, and images, that they will need during the learning process. Children should be able to ‘play’ with sounds and letters. Experts call this ‘phonological awareness’. Ideally, children learn these concepts through fun activities that they cherish for the rest of their lives. 

Additionally, children are encouraged to develop their graphomotor skills. These are essential skills required for reading and writing. The skills allow children to see the word and assign the meaning to it, as well as find the dexterity to hold a pencil and write something on a piece of paper.


Did you know: 76% of adults claim, thinking about reading with their parents brings back happy childhood memories

The goal of this phase of learning to read is not just to teach your kid about letters and words, but to develop their graphomotor skills and show them that learning and reading can be fun, exciting, and fulfilling.

Possible issues for struggling readers

Some children may face certain difficulties during this phase. This is nothing to be alarmed about, but these issues may indicate the child will struggle to learn to read in school. All that means is that he or she will require more practice and a more creative approach to reading practice in order to become a fluent reader. Be attentive to these signs:

– Child has difficulties pronouncing words, i.e., debroom instead of bedroom, park slug instead of spark plug
– Child is slow to add new words to his vocabulary
– Child is unable to recall the correct word when asked
– Child has difficulties with rhymes
– Child has trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes, how to spell and write his or her name

As written above, these difficulties are nothing to be alarmed about, but it is good to be prepared if your child has issues, so you can react proactively and help your kid on the path to becoming an avid reader.

How to react to reading issues

Children affected by dyslexia or similar issues should get extra help as soon as possible. This greatly increases the chances of a child successfully learning to read in primary school. It also lowers the risk of poorer academic results in the future. 

As a parent, there are several things you can do to maximize the chances of success:

  • Address the problem
    If you notice the above-mentioned issues, take your child to their doctor so they are aware of the issues. This will help the doctor assess the situation and act proactively.
  • Read aloud to your kid
    Try to take as much time as possible to read to your child. This helps them get familiarized with the concepts of letters, words, images. It also provides a happy memory for your child, showing them that reading can be a fun family experience.
  • Work with the kindergarten
    If your kid is in kindergarten, explain the problems to their teacher. Kindergarten workers are sometimes trained for these situations and can provide the necessary help or at least recommend someone who can.
  • Create a plan and stick to it
    Create a reading plan and execute it. Below you can find useful exercises, as well as an executable plan. Adjust it according to your needs and start reading with your child.

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Recommended exercises

Reading With Your Kid

Helps with: Getting familiar with reading concepts

One of the best, cheapest, and most fun activities you can do to prepare your child for the learning development is to read with and to your kid. It works because it ticks all the previously mentioned boxes: It teaches the kid about different concepts (such as letters, words, images) AND it is a fun activity that your kid will cherish for the rest of their life.

Reading with your kid can be like an advertisement for reading. It shows the kid that reading can be beautiful, which makes them eager to dive into the fabulous world of stories.

The best thing about the activity is that you can start very early in the child’s life. Show an infant the images in a book and say aloud names of objects when pointing at them. You can then progress to reading stories to them. This stimulates the development of imagination and teaches them about the world around them. It also helps them develop language and listening skills, and shows them there is a correlation between a written and spoken word.

Recommended Reading

In the early stages of a child’s learning development, you are going to be the one doing the reading. The child will be listening to you, reacting to certain words and pictures. Find a book you enjoyed as a kid and pass the experience to your child. Any book will do, but books with very simple words, colorful images, and repeating objects can capture the child’s attention for longer periods of time. Here are some examples:

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Press Here by Hervé Tullet

Find a book you enjoyed as a kid and pass the experience to your child.

It is completely fine to read the same book over and over again. Children love repetition as they get to know more letters, more words, more story characters each time the book is read to them.

Finger Read With Your Child

Helps with: Graphomotor skills, Getting familiar with reading concepts

Reading a book to your kid with a twist. Have them follow your reading with their finger. That ensures they will stay focused and follow the story. They will have to adapt the speed of their motion to your reading, which develops their motor skills as well. To make the experience even more fun, play around with the voices until you both burst out laughing!

Use Flashcards

Helps with: Getting familiar with reading concepts

Flashcards are another great way of introducing children to the world of learning and reading. Flashcards can vary, but generally they include a word or a letter and an image of an object. So for example, on the card you can see an image of a cat and either a letter ‘C’ or a word ‘Cat’.

Important: Focus on the sounds, not the actual words themselves. The goal here is not for the child to memorize the word, but for him to acquire listening skills. For example, how the letter ‘c’ sounds like ‘k’ when sounding out the whole word.

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You can use each card to familiarize your child with the object on the card. Describe what the object is, how it is used, what is fun about it. Take learning to read to the next level and include the object as the main object in a fun story!

You can make the flashcards yourself at no cost. Take a magazine, cut out images with different objects, glue them to a piece of paper or cardboard, and write the letter or the word beneath.

Alternatively, you can buy flashcards online.

Use Reading Worksheets and Printables

Helps with: Graphomotor skills, getting familiar with reading concepts

Another great resource you can use are printable worksheets. Similar to flashcards, worksheets help familiarize your kid with his or her first letters, words, objects, and images. Additionally, they are amazing at developing your kid’s motor skills.

Printable resources can remove much of the preparation you need when teaching kids to read. They provide a shortcut since most of the things you will need are already prepared by others and shared on the internet. All you need is to download, print, and start using them with your kid.

There are a lot of resources on the internet, so try not to get lost in the sea of choice. Think about what you need to teach your kid and find specific resources for that challenge.

You can get a lot of the resources from the following link: RESOURCES

Use Educational Mobile and Web Games

Helps with: Getting familiar with reading concepts

We understand screen time is inappropriate for young children, so the following examples should be applied with care. From our experience, children can gain a lot from technology, but try not to expose your kids to technology too early as it can easily become addictive. If at all possible, in this early phase of child development, you should stick to printable resources. In addition to knowledge, they provide a family experience that mobile phones don’t. 

That being said, if you are short on time, there are some games your kid can use when starting to learn to read. They work very similarly to worksheets, only that they are in digital form.

Starfall Learn To Read: Starfall has several web and mobile games. They start by teaching your kid the alphabet and then move to vowel sounds and comprehension. learning is based on stories which your kid is surely going to love.

Homer Homer is another platform that helps with early reading practice. By paying $7.95 a month you get a learning plan that focuses on sight words and the alphabet. If you don’t want to stick to the learning plan at all times, you can take a break and practice favorite activities in the practice menu. Which is good, because we don’t recommend starting with sight words before mastering phonics. The app can be found on mobile devices, which makes them available to you at any time through your phone.

PRO TIP: Start building a word list

Word list is a list of words, your kid is familiar with. Put a word on the list if your kid recognizes it in a story, or if you pay special attention to it. If the story is about a fox, then “fox” should definitely be on the list. Work with your kid’s teacher to get a list of words that your kid should be familiar with.

Set of alphabet worksheet on white paper
Word lists will come in handy in the future lessons.

The word list will come in handy in the upcoming learning phases when you have to start teaching your kid about word and sentence structure. Those concepts are easier to explain on words that your kid is familiar with.

Executable Plan

Start teaching the kid by reading to them and with them. Ideally, you would read to the kid once a day for 15-30 minutes, although that can depend on the child’s ability to focus. Try setting up a schedule and sticking to it. This is a crucial part of the kid’s reading development process.

When a child loses focus you can switch to another activity. Have word cards prepared and motivate your child by playing a game with them. Use the words that have appeared in the text you have been reading to the child until that moment. For example: Let’s say you are reading your kid a story about castles and princesses. The child gets restless after 15 minutes. After a few attempts, you decide this is enough reading for a day. Take a quick break and create a word card that has a castle drawn on it as well as the word ‘Castle’ written below. Engage your kid by showing them the card. They should recognize it from the images in the book. Talk to your kid about what castles are, that their function was to guard princesses, and how today they still stand in certain places around the world. 

On the off-days, when you have more time at your disposal, you can use worksheets and printable resources to engage your kid in a fun activity. For example, download and print out the Missing Letters worksheet and work with your kid until the alphabet is complete. Afterward, give them a reward.

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Executable Timetable

10.30 – 11.00 am6.45 – 7.00 pm7.15-7.30 pm
MondayReading with your kidWord Cards
TuesdayReading with your kid
WednesdayReading with your kidWorksheets
ThursdayReading with your kid
FridayReading with your kidWord Cards
SaturdayWorksheetsReading with your kidWorksheets
SundayWorksheetsReading with your kidWord Cards

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