Here’s Why Your Child is Struggling with Pre-Reading Skills

(Hint: It’s not your child. It’s your STRATEGY.)

First, know that our brains are NOT hardwired to read.

Reading is a complex activity. In fact, brain imaging studies show that your child’s brain must connect the vision and language parts of the brain and build the “reading network” in order to learn how to read. Most children need explicit, systematic, multi-sensory and cumulative instruction in foundational reading skills.

Most likely, your child is struggling because you’ve skipped ahead.

It’s easy to skip a step or get sidetracked when you don’t have a roadmap that shows you what to focus on and when to introduce each new pre-reading skill to meet your child right where he or she is at.

You end up feeling scattered because you’re trying random literacy activities without really understanding how it all fits together in the sequence or knowing what comes next.

For example, toddlers go through a stage when they want to know the names of everything. Many parents think this means that their toddler is ready for learning the alphabet, but it’s actually just an eagerness for language.

The truth is that knowing the alphabet letter names (and even letter sounds) is no more impressive than naming any object!

Toddlers do not understand the abstract concept that these symbols represent sounds in our spoken language, so there’s not much point trying to get your 18 month old to learn the alphabet by putting letters in the sensory bin or stamping letters into play dough.

Another common mistake is thinking that you can teach your child to read just by using beginning phonics books.

I highly doubt you would toss your child into the pool and expect him or her to start swimming! Similarly, asking your child to read a book before he or she has mastered all of the component skills is a lot of pressure.

You really need to lay the foundation for reading with solid pre-reading skills before introducing early reader books. Plus, books with phonetic words and a few sight words will only get you so far.

What really matters when it comes to reading readiness is phonemic awareness. Research shows it’s the best predictor of how well children learn to read.

To set your child up for success with reading, your child needs to hear and identify the sounds in spoken words, understand that spoken words are made up of sounds in a row, blend sounds to make spoken words and segment spoken words into their sounds.

Written language is a human invention. The letters in our language only have meaning because we’ve all agreed that a certain symbol represents a sound in our spoken language.

By focusing on phonemic awareness when your child is around 3 years old, the letter symbols will have meaning for your child when it comes time to associate them with the sounds your child already knows. This is one way you can teach smarter and save time and energy!

If you gloss over the phonemic awareness step, your child will likely struggle at some point along the journey to becoming a fluent reader.

The worst part is that you might start thinking that your preschooler is just not yet ready for “formal learning”. This would be a real shame because about 90% of your child’s brain will be wired by age 5 — before traditional school age!

It’s not enough to just read to your child and maybe do some random letter recognition activities or “letter a week” crafts and worksheets.

My son gets mixed up when I show him more than one letter. He also confuses lowercase and uppercase letters. I’m already going super slow, and repeating the same letter recognition activity is getting really boring.
My daughter can’t trace the letters on the alphabet worksheet even though they are uppercase, which are supposed to be easier to write. My attempt to teach her how to hold a pencil ended in tears!
My son knows most letter names and sounds, but struggles with the beginning phonics books I bought. I’m beginning to wonder if he’s the right age for learning to read. Maybe it’s too early for formal education. As they say, “School before six is just for kicks.” Right?!

When you don’t have a systematic plan, you’re likely to run into some problems like these parents did.

Not to mention, it’s frustrating to spend so much time planning and prepping each new literacy activity only to have your toddler or preschooler spend 2 minutes on it. 🤣

Most children need explicit, systematic, multi-sensory and cumulative instruction in foundational reading skills.

It’s time to STOP doing random literacy activities and START being strategic with how you support your child’s journey toward becoming a fluent reader!


I'm Lisa, a Montessori teacher and the creator of The Playful Path to Reading™.

I want to help you set your child up for success so learning to read is a joyful process of discovery.

I will show you how to engage your child in hands-on activities that build essential literacy skills one step at a time.


The Playful Path to Reading™ takes the guesswork out of teaching your child to read.

It’s NOT about pushing early academics! It’s about taking advantage of the optimal time to learn to read — while your child’s developing brain absorbs knowledge without conscious effort.

You’ll simply be creating invitations to play that gently pull your child towards reading. The key is providing the right experience at just the right time to meet developmental needs, and then trusting your child's natural inclination to absorb language and learn through hands-on exploration.

How It Works

This play-based preschool reading program shows you how to guide your child towards reading by focusing on what really matters. You’ll skip the fluff and instead focus your time and energy on building the exact early literacy skills that will set up your child for success with reading. One concept is introduced at a time, and each new activity builds on what your child already knows.


Isolate sounds in spoken words, blend sounds to make words and segment words into sounds.


Associate each sound with its alphabet letter.


Build words using a moveable alphabet.


Read phonetic words, phonogram words, sight words and then phrases and sentences.


How It’s Different



All of the activities are engaging and developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.  They feel like games, not "lessons". 

Your child gets to play with you in a way that research shows children learn best: hands-on experiences that involve the senses and movement.

You can be the kind of parent you want to be — calm, confident and nurturing — as your child learns naturally through exploration.

This play-based approach takes the pressure off but still gets results because you're working with your child's natural inclination to absorb language. The key is providing the right experiences at the right time to meet developmental needs. 



You'll learn exactly what to do, how to do it, what to use (no apps, crafts or worksheets!), what to expect, why the activity is important for early literacy and when to move on to the next step. With a clear plan, you'll feel confident even if you have zero teaching experience.

Once you're familiar with each activity, it's simply a matter of repetition until your child has explored enough and is prepared for the next step. Each activity is laser-focused on exactly what your child needs at the right time. Focusing on one concept at a time also means that you won't feel overwhelmed either!

Requiring just 15 minutes of playing together daily, it's doable whether you're homeschooling or supplementing what your child is learning at daycare or school.

Are you ready to feel confident with a step-by-step plan for teaching your child to read?

You’re not alone if you’re feeling both excited and intimidated about teaching your child to read. Tackling reading feels scary and overwhelming for most parents.

Confidence comes from having a clear plan so you know what to focus on, why it’s important, how to engage your child in literacy activities to build specific pre-reading skills and when to move forward with the next step.

If you just don’t have the time or energy to do the research and pull it together on your own so you can move forward confidently, you’re in the right place.

Enrollment opens soon!

Join the waiting list for early bird pricing.