As children are learning about letter names and letter sounds, it’s important for them to simultaneously learn that letters are used to form words and that words carry meaning. Memorizing words is a MUCH bigger part of reading than people realize. Once a word is memorized, it doesn’t need to be sounded out. (I’ll talk about sounding out words in part 5.)
When creating my resources, I chose common words that children would hear often and that would be useful to know. Many times, people have children memorize “sight words” like the, from, and said, but these words don’t have an easily discernable meaning like the ones I have chosen here. My feelings about “sight words” or “frequently used words” is that since they are so frequently used, it seems redundant to memorize them in isolation when children will encounter them repeatedly while engaged with quality literature. But I digress…
I don’t include any pictures with these words resources because I want children to memorize the shape of the word as if it were a picture. I want them to understand the entire meaning of the word. I also chose many words that require actions. As children learn these words, I recommend bringing them to life and using the flashcards in conjunction with my Words Video as well as your own motions.
Age to Start
The ideal time to start teaching children to memorize words is between 6-8 months of age. This is when the neurons in their brain are exploding with growth! I recommend starting with the ABCs FIRST, but then introducing these words shortly thereafter. The ABCs are the smallest snippets of written language, more easily identifiable, and easier to memorize as a set, but children need to see pretty quickly what these letters are being used for.
How I Discovered the Importance of Memorizing Words
When my daughter Ruby (my first of five) was 6 months old, I started showing her the Your Baby Can Read videos (now called Your Baby Can Learn…people got mad about the claims that babies could read and so they have had to rebrand themselves). They were simple, engaging, and effective. While watching the videos together, she was always engaged, but she never vocalized anything until after about 10 months. (This is the silent period of language acquisition where children are little sponges taking everything in, but not yet speaking.)
Then at about 12-14 months old, she expressed an explosion of language! She started out by saying the beginning sounds of the words and eventually words by the dozen. By the time she was 15 months old, I would write down words from the video and she would read them! Then I started adding more words pertaining to things she liked: cat, walk, moon, mom, dad, Ruby, etc. and after repeated exposure, she would read those too.
People who saw her do this would be blown away, but they would say, “She’s not reading those words, she just memorized them.” And I would say,
“YES, MEMORIZING WORDS IS A PART OF READING!!!”
We are so trained to think that words need to be sounded out, and yes, that is a part of reading too, but once a word has been sounded out over and over again, it becomes MEMORIZED.
How to Teach
At birth, a newborn’s brain contains 100 billion neurons, but it’s not the neurons that are so fascinating as is the connections between them. When two neurons connect, the path between them is covered in a fatty myelin sheath. The more something is done or used, the thicker the myelin sheath gets and the faster the connection becomes. When children learn the same thing (like memorizing words) over and over and over again, the speed of recognition increases until it is automatic and instantaneous.
A synapse is basically the space where two neurons connect, and when children are 6 months old, there is an EXPLOSION of synapse formations, this continues until the age of 2 when synaptic pruning begins to occur. So basically, whatever isn’t used goes away to strengthen what is being utilized in the child’s environment. (Check out this AMAZING visual here.) That is why it is CRUCIAL to lay the foundation for brain development with the right things, and why it is imperative to start at a young age. Memorizing words is a HUGE part of learning how to read, and if it can be introduced before the age of two it will be part of the brain’s framework.
I highly recommend using the Words Flashcards with my Words Video because these words need to be brought to life! I also recommend finding at least 5 minutes three times per week to teach these words. As you read through these words with your child, remember them so that when you’re going about your day you can talk about their meaning and point them out. I really like writing words down in a little book, on a white board, or on a piece of paper for us to color over as well.
I have hand drawn and digitized each of these resources to specifically fit the needs of my own children. Someday, I would like to create a “Teach Your Child to Read Kit” that will bundle everything together in one package, but for now, I want to get this information and these resources out there. Please feel free to print as many copies as you would like for your own personal use.
If you are going to be making these, I highly recommend getting the following supplies:
- Printer – A good basic printer like this will do the job, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of printing, I would recommend something like this.
- Card Stock – I like to make sure I always have plenty of this around for all of my flashcards, posters, and other needs.
- Laminator – I have a basic laminator like this, and it works great for all types of paper and projects.
- Laminating Sheets – I like buying this big pack because it’s good to have plenty of laminating sheets for flashcards, posters, art projects, and more.
- Three Hole Punch – This hole punch is really sturdy and can handle a whole stack of paper.
- 1/4 Inch Rings – When making flashcards, I have found it’s best to use two rings on top to keep everything organized and easy to flip through, and this size is best.
- Long Arm Stapler – This is for making the books. You will love having a long arm stapler for a variety of reasons.
- Premium Paper – I recommend using this paper for making the books. The paper is a little thicker and smoother.
To Make the Flashcards
- Print – Select “Print on Both Sides” and “Flip sheets on short edge” to print. Print on card stock.
- Cut – Use a paper cutter to cut in half horizontally and vertically.
- Laminate – Arrange four cut out pieces into the laminate pouch. Make sure there is a bigger space between the cards in the middle since it will need to be cut horizontally and vertically again. (If you don’t leave extra laminate around all sides, it will peel.)
- Cut Again – If you stayed pretty consistent with the positions of the cards in the laminate, you should be able to cut a big stack of them at once.
- Assemble – Put them together in order.
- Hole Punch – I like to angle each corner into the three hole punch and can do several cards at once with a heavy duty hole puncher. Put two holes on top in the corners.
- Rings – I like using the 1/4″ rings.
To Make the Book
- Print – Select “Print on Both Sides” and “Flip sheets on short edge” to print. Print on premium paper.
- Cut – Cut in half horizontally on the dotted line.
- Assemble – Put the top half that you cut on top of the bottom half.
- Staple – Use a long arm stapler to staple three times on top of the dark dashes.
- Fold – I find it’s best to fold and crease each page open so that it will stay open when you lay it flat.
To Make the Poster
- Print – Print on card stock. *You can also bring a digital version into a print store like Kinkos and they can enlarge it to a poster size.
- Laminate – Laminating this will ensure that it will last for a long time, but you don’t have to.
1. Words Flashcards
I carefully chose this selection of words based on the words my own children have been most interested in and the words that I felt would have the greatest chance of being used in their environment. I have also included words with suffixes (word endings). I have some verbs with an -ing ending (present progressive…meaning that it is happening right now or will happen) and many plural suffixes (meaning more than one). It is not important for children to know what a suffix is, but it is important for them to notice the root word (like clap in clapping) to see that it can look differently.
Get a PDF of the flashcards here: Words Flashcards Single Set
2. Words Video
This Words Video is designed to bring my flashcards to life! After a brief intro, this 31 minute video shows the flashcards followed by images and videos of my children that will give each word meaning. Not only will children be engaged while learning these words, but they will be building vocabulary and memorizing words as well.
Don’t just stick your child in front of this video and walk away! Watch it WITH your child. Say the words along with the video, and praise your child when they get a word right. Eventually, your child will become extremely familiar with the video, and then you can use it as a babysitter from time to time, just don’t do so initially.
3. Words Book
This book has the same words as the flashcards, but in a different format. I like this book format because it’s a little easier to assemble than the flashcards and introduces children to the principles of reading a book.
Get a PDF of the book here: Words Printable Book
4. Words Posters
These Words and Words with Suffixes Posters combine all of the words I have used in the flashcards and video in one easy to see resource. I like putting these on the wall in multiple locations, using them as placements, bringing them with us in the car, and really anything that will encourage repeated exposure.
Get a PDF of the Words poster here: Words Poster
Get a PDF of the Words with Suffixes poster here: Words with Suffixes Poster
5. Android Words Explorer App
My husband brought my Words Video to life in a new format. Children can click on a menu featuring each word to the the corresponding video. This is for Android devices only.
Children will memorize words that they see over and over and over again. This is best done through repeated reading. Here are some of the books I have enjoyed reading repeatedly with my little ones. I like making reading part of my routines like going to bed, morning reading, and reading before rest time.
- Baby’s First Words – I LOVE how this book is thick, has a sturdy puffy cover, and has simple images surrounded by white with one word below to describe it. This is great for building vocabulary and teaching children new words. The Hinkler company is amazing and everything they make is great.
- First 100 Words – This book has an array of boxes on a page with many pictures with a word underneath falling into a variety of different categories. It’s a great tool for teaching the names of things.
- Let’s Talk – Children will love pressing the buttons that make sounds for the corresponding pictures. It’s a great way to bring these basic words to life.
- Tails – This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is SUPER sturdy and every page is brightly colored, flashy, and has some sort of movement you can facilitate. What a great way to teach words! There’s also a similar book called Heads that is equally amazing.
- Bard’s Rhyme Time – Finding books with a rhyming pattern makes figuring out the last word super easy. I love the flaps in this book and pausing before the last word to give my little one a chance to say it.
- Pajama Time – Anything by Sandra Boynton is great for babies. I love turning this book into a little song. All of our kids have LOVED this as part of their bedtime routine.
- The Going to Bed Book – This is another Boynton book and another family favorite.
- Maisy Goes to Bed – This book is interactive and very cute. There is also a Maisy cartoon show which helps little ones to become even more familiar with the books.
- Bedtime Peekaboo! – This board book is very short and simple with pages that fold out. I love reading it at night with my little ones.
- 10 Minutes till Bedtime – This is another all time favorite book. There is minimal text, but so many details to point out in the pictures that make it a different experience every time we read it.
- Hey! Wake Up! – This Sandra Boynton book makes a great morning routine with it’s cute characters and rhyming text.
Sight Word Videos
Even though I’m not a big fan of teaching sight words, I love how these videos personify each word by making it come to life and act out the meaning of the word, which is the most important part.
I LOVE Usborne books! The pages are super durable, the stories are interesting, the vocabulary development is phenomenal, and the people and Usborne GET reading. They know that children should start young…I’m talking babies…and provide PLENTY of resources to get your little ones interested in reading.
- My First Word Books – In this collection, there are books about words, farms, food, about me, and things that go. Each book features 270 words with simple and engaging pictures.
- Learn Words with Little Red Penguin – Little ones will love this cute board book while they lift the flaps to learn about first words.
- Lift the Flap Words – This bright lift the flap book gives children lots of practice naming basic words in a fun and engaging way.
- Very First Books of Things to Spot – There are three books in this series. The first one is in general, the next is at home, and the last is out and about. There are no words, only pictures, but it’s great for oral language development.
- Lift and Look Board Books – This series features books about constructions sites, dinosaurs, planes, tractors, trains, and under the sea. Children will love lifting the flaps in these sturdy books.
Memorizing words is a very important part in the first stages of reading because children need to see that letters are used to make words and that words convey meaning. In addition, memorizing words is a much bigger part of reading than people think. Once children memorize the first set of words from my flashcards and video, they will be ready to memorize words in the context of quality literature. If you read rhyming text, do repeated reading with the same books over and over, point to words occasionally as you’re reading with your child, pause to let them fill in the words they know while pointing to them, and make reading fun and part of your daily routines – your child will memorize words and be on their way to independent reading!
Check out all of the blogs in my reading series:
- How to Introduce Your Baby to Reading
- Learning the Alphabet Lays the Foundation for Reading
- Memorizing Words is What Good Readers Do
- Building Vocabulary with Colors, Numbers, and Shapes
- Phonemic Awareness Leads to Reading Success
- Teaching Phonics with Three Letter Words
- Encouraging Children to Read Independently
- Reinforcing Reading with Writing