4 Great Reading Games for Kids

April 16, 2015

Help your child improve her literacy skills by playing these reading games for kids, which can help readers of all abilities.

You know reading is one of the most important childhood skills your little one will master. When a child can read, she's able to learn a wealth of other information. Reading doesn't come easy for everyone, but playing reading games for kids is an entertaining and enjoyable way for your child to work on her reading skills. Doing whatever it takes to turn your child into a reader is important so she doesn't "miss out on the joy" that reading brings, says Susan Stephenson, a children's author, creator of literacy site The Book Chook and former grade-school teacher.

Try these fun reading games for kids of all literacy levels:

  1. Find an Item
    When your child is just learning how to read, she needs to spend time focusing on the sounds that each letter makes. After all, notes Christy Moore, a literacy coach who blogs at Authentic Literacy, the best way to get better at something is to practice often. This will lay the groundwork for being able to sound words out as she begins to actually read words.

    Play this game in an area where your child has plenty of items to choose from, such as a playroom. Say the sound of a letter and challenge your child to find something that starts with that sound. For example, tell your child what sound "s" makes, and then see if she can find a snake or a sock. Because children learning to read are often too little to play a competitive game without dissolving into tears, simply give your child a point for each item she finds. At the end of play, congratulate her on how many points she earned.
  2. Think of a Word
    This game, recommended by Stephenson, is great for beginner readers. Come up with several categories for words, like "an animal" or "a food." Cut a piece of paper into squares and write a letter on each (but skip uncommon letters, such as "q" and "x"). To play, put the letters into a bowl and draw one out. Tell your child what the letter is, then give him the categories. If there aren't other children playing, you can compete against your child. The objective is to write one word for each category. For example, if the letter is "m," your child could write "monkey" for an animal and "macaroni" for a food.

    Give your little one five minutes to write down his answers, reminding him that they don't need to be spelled correctly, since spelling can be tricky for beginning readers. Ask him to read his answers, and award a point for each correct answer. The winner is the person with the most points. Build reading skills even more by having your child write a sentence using as many of the words he came up with as possible. A fun twist on this game is to use what your child is learning at school. For example, if your child is learning about community helpers, include that as a category. Dr. Donald Deshler, the director of the KU Center for Research on Learning, notes that having your child focus on content is a powerful way to practice reading and teach important concepts at the same time.
  3. Pick a Stick
    Ask intermediate readers to write a series of simple commands on wooden craft sticks, like "hop on your left foot 10 times" or "turn in four circles." Place the sticks in a plastic cup. To play, each player draws a stick out of the cup, reads it and performs the action. If the player is successful, she gets a point. Play continues until all the sticks have been read. The winner is the person with the most points. This game boosts reading skills because children have to pay close attention to earn points, but it also reinforces reading skills already learned, such as recognizing sight words and number words. It's also effective because using the whole body engages both sides of the brain, which is key to improving reading skills and becoming a more advanced reader.
  4. Cover a Passage
    To play this game for advanced readers, choose a piece of text from a book or magazine your child enjoys. To improve reading skills, it's key to choose material that will engage and interest your child, Stephenson emphasizes. Ask your child to read a short passage from the text, then cover it with a piece of paper and have her recite what she just read. Gradually make the passages longer as you play. Award a point for each passage she recites correctly, and award yourself a point if she leaves out words or forgets portions.

    Dr. Deshler notes that providing your child with the support necessary to be successful is key to building reading skills, so ask questions to jog your child's memory. This game also provides an opportunity for your child to read content and learn new things since she's at a reading level where she's reading to learn -- not simply learning to read.

Reading games for kids are amusing and can be an effective way to build reading skills, but they're not a replacement for reading to your child. Make time to "read to your child every day," Stephenson notes, even if he can read independently.

Need book ideas to get your tot or teen reading? Check out these ideas for Books for Kids Age 0 to Tween.

Sara Ipatenco is a former elementary-school teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's and a master's degree, both in child development and elementary education. Ipatenco has been published in "Teaching Tolerance" and "Family Fun" magazines.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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