When helping your kids learn to read, forget about sight words and focus on these things instead

Learning to read is a huge step in any kid’s educational journey. There’s just one problem: There are quite a few paths to get there, and that can leave parents wondering how best to help their kids learn. Luckily, Spencer Russell, a former teacher who has developed a program to help toddlers (yes, toddlers) learn how to read, is here to help.

These days, one of the widely accepted methods of learning involves “sight words,” words kids can memorize and recognize without having to sound them out. But Russell is encouraging parents to take a different approach that they might recognize from when they were learning to read as children. In his viral TikTok videos, he explains the benefits of teaching kids to learn to read phonetically, and it actually makes a ton of sense.


Stop having your child memorize sight words and instead focus on the phonics sounds (starting with the primary letter sounds). This way, they have the key to unlock any word vs. just a few on a sight word list! #sightwords #lettersounds #earlyreading #toddlerscanread

♬ original sound – toddlerscanread

In his video, Russell tells parents to stop teaching sight words, and instead use flash cards with individual letter sounds on them, like “rr” and “aa.” The caption explains, “This way, they have the key to unlock any word vs. just a few on a sight word list!”

In another video, he explains further, using the example of a child memorizing the alphabet. When they learn using something like the alphabet song, he explains, all they do is memorize the letters in order, without actually learning the letters.


Its time to start teaching phonics based on the scienceofreading WITHOUT the alphabetsong and yes, they’ll need to know ABC order EVENTUALLY but not before they need to learn the letter sounds themselves. This is a big reason why I have a full course for parents on how to teach phonics to their toddlers and young kids! toddlerscanread

♬ original sound – toddlerscanread


“They learned a pattern. They learned a song,” he says. “When we teach, we want them to understand the concept. So pick two, maybe three letters at a time, show them to your little one, and say, ‘This says J. Now you say it.’ Practice and play games with those two or three sounds until they know them, and then move on.”

Russell adds that you don’t even have to start at the beginning of the alphabet—wherever is easiest for your child to start (the first letter of their name, maybe?) is a good first letter for them to learn. What matters is that they actually learn the letter—they don’t just memorize it. And as they learn letters, that builds the foundation they need to understand sounds and words. When they put it all together, they have the skills they need to read.

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