Reading begins with letter sounds. If a child is not fluent in letter sounds, even letter recognition isn’t much help in learning to read. Whenever or not I am teaching a learner who is struggling, I always help them brush up on letter sounds until they know every different sound a letter can make, then I go back to sound blending and some of the more complex parts of reading. A good way to teach or reinforce letter sounds is with reading games!
Easy Reading Games for Beginning Readers
Write letters on a dry-erase board or chalkboard and make the letter sound. Wipe out the letter that matches the sound.
DIY Magnetic Letters
Write letters on Magna Tiles or another magnetic block and put together all the letter pairs (like TH, CH, GH) or match upper and lower case letters. You can also spell words this way or even write sentences as reading skills progress. This is also fun with connective blocks such as LEGO, Duplo, or Unifix Cubes.
(Cubes like this are available for purchase with letters already on them, like the Didax Educational Resources Unifix Letter Blends Cube Set.)
Build words using letter beads and string them together. A fun way to practice letter sounds while doing this is to make up silly or gibberish words and sound them out. This helps build letter sound recognition and blending skills.
Fill a tray with a small layer of sand. Make a letter sound and have the children write out the letter.
Blending Reading Games
Once they are more fluent in the letters sounds, play these reading games to get them blending the sounds.
Pop The Word
Using a plastic phonics popper, say a word and let the learner “pop” all the letters in it. You can make this easily with a plain popper, or buy a phonics one with letters already on it. (You can also do this with bubble wrap!)
Bean Bag Toss
Set letter cards on the ground (or just write a bunch of letters on a large piece of paper or poster board.) You don’t need to do the whole alphabet, just enough to spell a word and a few extras. For example, if the word is CAP, put out those letters plus three extras.
Give learners a bean bag and let them toss the bag on the letters they need to spell the word.
You can also use this for letter sound fluency by making the letter sound and throwing the bean bag on the matching letter. Whole body learning!
Guess The Word
Write out a word but leave out one or two letters. See if the learner can guess the word and fill in the missing letters. This also helps with letter-sound fluency or with decoding vowels or letter pairs.
More Reading Games at the Next Level Games
Make a flip book (or buy a pre-made blank one) and write a word or a whole sentence they can flip through! (One letter or word per page.)
These are always fun, and you can easily make them at home with paper and pencil. Your child can even make one for you with words they know how to spell.
Mix up the letters in a few simple words and have them unscramble them. You can do this on a piece of paper or with letter blocks, letter cards, or other letter materials.
Hide word or letter cards around the room, and after all of them have been found, decode the word or sentence.
Want some games that you can buy? Try some of these:
Sentence Building Dominoes
There are so many ways to use the Sentence Building Dominos. You can build sentences, work on rhyming words, practice spelling, and strengthen reading. You can use these word dominoes in many of the games listed above, like sentence search, or other games, like hiding words in a sensory bin filled with sand or water.
ABC Go Fish
Alphabet Go Fish! is a great choice for practicing letter sounds and recognition in addition to memory and game-playing skills like turn-taking. You can also use these letter cards to build simple words or play other letter games.
Word Rods are helpful for word building, letter sounds and recognition, and practicing blending sounds. Many sets have cards that show words, but you can also use them alone to practice sounding out words.
These are two different levels of the same game. My First Bananagrams helps with building letter recognition and letter combos, and has a few mini-games to practice beginning letter skills. Wild Tiles builds on spelling skills and is the next step in the Bananagrams game.
Extra Reading Practice
Duo ABC isn’t a toy, but a reading app. It’s simple enough for a very beginning reader and can help build fluency. It is under the Duolingo umbrella, so you may be able to get it in multiple languages. I have only used the English version, and it can be helpful with letter sounds and recognition. It even offers handwriting practice.
Create A Story Cards
Though the Create a Story cards don’t help with reading skills, they are the jumping-off point for reading comprehension. Can you create a story with a beginning, middle, and end? Can you follow plot points? After fluency, reading comprehension is the next skill needed to become a successful reader.
Whatever game you play to make reading fun, it’s important to practice letter sounds first and then move into blending. Letter sounds will be the key to reading fluency, how can you learn how to sound out words without those letter sounds? Having easy and fun reading games for beginning readers will help motivate children to keep learning, and that’s the path to a successful reader.