DIY Activities And Simple Tips That Help Build Reading Skills

Make your own books – This does not need to be a book of words, it can be a book of pictures or drawings or some other medium you can be creative with.

Make your own Read Along – If you have a book, and get the audio book version of it, use them together to create your own read along (check your library for both). Audio books can often be found in video form as well, turn on the Closed Caption option to follow along. Downloadable copies are available for ‘out of copyright’ books for free. If you open the file, you can use the voice reader on your computer to read it to you. Some devices may offer a text to voice option as well. Apps are available in some app stores.
If you find an out-of-copyright book you want to listen to, look for it in YouTube, or another video playing site, and follow the words as it is read. Make sure the print version is the same as the sound version of the story.

Allow for creative spelling when writing. Creative or Inventive spelling is when you do the best you can to write the letters you hear when you say a word. It can often leave out vowels (a e i o u) or us simple letters instead of letter blends such as K for CH, a Z for S, F for PH, etc. It can often be read back easily enough. For example: CRZY for Crazy, Fone for Phone, Wrk for Work, etc. The point is to allow the creative process to flow and not let the inability to spell a word interfere with the process. Spelling can be corrected later on.

Make lists – Lists are a great way to learn how to read and write. Pictures can be used at first, then creative/inventive spelling, someone can help with spelling, voice to text technology can be used. A dictionary can be used too. Physically writing words can help with word retention.

Watch a movie with the Closed Caption on. If you are watching a DVD or Video that offers Closed Caption, put it on and shut the sound off. Use a movie, tv show, or video you are familiar with to start. Read the bottom of the screen to the best of your ability. The only problem with this method is that not all Closed Captions are 100% accurate. Another option is to use Karaoke or Sing-Alongs

Read a book together – This is a tried and true way to learn how to read or to improve reading skills. Two copies of the same book can be used; digital, physical, printed, ect., one person can read, while the other follows along. This is a great way to use a story made by the person (learner) that has been written down by another person.

Sing A Song – Use a Sing Along video or Karaoke to learn how to read. Start with a song you are familiar with and like, then challenge yourself to learn a new one.

Read your favorite song – Get the lyrics to your favorite song, and without listening to the music, read the words. You may be surprised by what the words really are! Listen to a new song and try to read along with it. Make a game out of it and see how many words you get right/know before you hear the song. Print out the lyrics and circle all the words you know before you hear the song. Follow the words as you hear them sung. Try reading the words the second time without the music. Count how many more you know, and then play the music again, providing the method is being enjoyed.

If you know how to read, and want to improve your skills, think of the types of stories or genres you are interested in and go from there. Some ideas include: Mystery, True Crime, Romance, Horror, Gothic Literature, Poems, Dramas, History, Science Fiction, Non-Fiction, Biographical, Action, Thriller, Cookbooks, Business, Self-Help, Health, Comics, Home and Garden, Animals, Hobbies, Crafts, Humor, Religious, Fantasy, Travel, etc..
Choose from websites, blogs, books, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, and other publications.

There is nothing wrong with liking multiple topics. Start at a level you feel most comfortable with (yes, “children’s” books are fine) so you can get to know the vocabulary of the topic, then move up from there. Don’t let anyone limit you, or stop you from starting from where you need to begin. Use a dictionary, spell checker, or an internet dictionary or thesaurus to help you learn on your own. When you come across a word you don’t know, but don’t want to stop reading, underline the word if the publication is yours, or take a second to write the word down to look up later. A recording device can help with that. If you can not read the word, spell the letters out, and keep going. If you’re on the internet, almost every word can be typed in and pronounced for you. Use the tools available to you. Never limit yourself. Never think you can not do it. It can be frustrating to build upon your skill level, keep going, it is totally worth it. Every new topic, subject, genre will have a new vocabulary to learn. Be patient with yourself.

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Using Pictographs or/and Pictograms To Learn How To Read or Improve Reading Skills

Before there were words, people communicated with pictures, drawings, and symbols. This can be a great place to begin the reading process or build upon it. Learning to read using pictures is a creative process that encourages the imagination, and cuts down on limitations. Pictures and symbols can represent a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts.

Allow creativity to flow.

Make up a story from a picture or picture book – Pictures, picture book, drawings, and books with a lot great illustrations are wonderful for inspiring stories. Once a story begins to develop, record it in some way: Have someone write while you speak, record it using an audio or video device, use a voice-to-text program. Draw it. Story dice can be used to inspiring stories as well.

Note: If a mistake is made while recording the story, have the story teller keep on going. The editing stage can take care of mistakes. Allow creativity to flow unhindered.

Use Pictographs (drawn pictures) to write notes back and forth to other people. Start with symbols such as I love you, I love Ice cream, Go 4 A Drive, Go 2 the Park. Picture dice can be fun to use to have a conversation with as well. After a while, exchange the symbols for words, one at a time. Native Americans and ancient cultures used pictographs and glyphs to record their history, tell stories, and communicate.

Rebus Puzzles – Rebus puzzles use pictures and words to solve hidden meanings. After you do some of the ones that are available online, you can make some of your own to give to someone else.

Rebus Story – Rebus stories use pictures and/or word art as a substitute for a regular word. Instead of writing: The castle was surround by a wall. You can substitute the word castle for a picture of a castle, and the word wall for a wall. Small graphics can be used, dingbats, stamps, sticker, or pictures can be drawn.

Create your own comic – Draw a comic, it can be made from stick figures if you like, and write in thought or word bubbles to express an idea.

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Out-Of-The-Box Ways To Learn How To Read…And Improve Reading Skills At Any Age

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Table-Top Fun

Many of the items we throw away everyday can be used to make fun learning activities. The following challenges are not only meant to be fun to play, they offer a simple lesson on how force works. The challenges offered below show how easy it is to connect math and science together, and how to add a writing element to an activity.

The first challenge is simply to learn how much force is needed to get a cap from one place to another and to measure the results.

The second helps to set goals and adds an extra math element via a score system.

The third challenge offers an element of creativity and a chance to use problem solving skills.

The fourth challenge offers players a chance to think of a creative way to use the items offered.

Skills that can be learned via the activities above:

Science Skills = Experimentation, Physics, Force, Distance

Math Skills = Measurements, Comparing, Guessing/Estimation, Time

Language Skills = Writing /Drawing

Also – Thinking Skills, Deductive Reasoning, Problem Solving, Fun, Creative Thinking Skills

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Design Your Own Menu

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Tangle & Zentangle Art

Art and meditation can take on many forms and Zentangle patterns combine both of these awesome things in a creative way. 

If this idea has piqued your interest, there are a few rules you’ll need to know before you begin drawing with dots, lines, curves, S-curves, and orbs, and the sites offered below will help you gain an understanding of how to use them to create Zentangle art. 

You’ll find some videos at the bottom of this post that offer instructions on how to make these designs as well.

Note: Please feel free to play with the concept of only using dots, lines, curves, S-curves and orbs to make art as well. Consider it a challenge to only use those things in a drawing!

To start creating, you will need: Paper, a pencil, a fine-tipped pen, and an ultra fine-tipped pen
You will also need: A ruler and scissors to cut paper into 3.5″ squares or tiles.

Sites to learn from…

Zentangle – Learn how to get started with this meditative art from the people who designed it.

Craft Whack: Inspired by Zentangle Patterns and Starter Pages – Offers printable patterns and ideas for making the designs created a little more interesting.

wiki: How to Make a ZentangleExplains what a Zentangle is and the difference between a Zentangle and a doodle.

Renee Tougas: A Beginners Guide To Beginning Zentangle  – The author of this site shares her experience with Zentangle, as a beginner.

TanglePatterns: From the site: An index and graphic guide to the best Zentangle® patterns on the web and how to draw them. Also, What is a Zentangle? and why a pattern is not always a tangle.

Tim’s Printables: Circle Templates, Pentagon Template 3″, Triangle Template 3″, Kite Template 3″, Square Template 3″ – Use the templates to design creative drawings within or on the outside of the template.

YouTube: Tangle & Zentangle Art Playlist – Includes videos for beginners and advanced designers and pattern ideas.
Here’s one of the videos in the list…

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Ed Emberley

Ed Emberley – Ed Emberley’s webpage contains biographical information about the author, a list of books he’s written, and some fun things to do.

Ed Emberley Drawing Pages: – The main page of Ed Emberley’s page contains something fun to draw. Scroll down to the bottom and click on “older pages” to see some of the other things available to visitors.

Wikipedia: Ed Emberley – Biographical information about Ed Emberley.

Funschooling & Recreational Learning: Circle – Make fun scenes with a simple circle cut in a variety of ways.

YouTube: Ed Emberley Playlist – Watch interviews with the author, and look at some examples of his books.
Here’s one of those great videos…

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Perhaps you’ve heard that a picture is worth 1000 words, I say a picture can be worth so much more than that because it is a wonderful way to inspire creative stories.
Use this picture to inspiration to your imagination.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Where does this little guy live and what’s he up to?

Where is he going?

What is he looking for?

Who is he going to meet up with?

What do you think he does for fun?

Tell, draw, or write a story about this squirrel.

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Carton Creations

For this challenge you will need:

A clean milk or juice carton

Craft supplies: Construction paper, scissors, glue, scissors, markers, ruler, pencil, paint, paint brush, etc.

A craft knife and another other things you feel you need to make your creation.


This is an open-ended activity, so pretty much anything goes.

The carton can be cut or used in any way.

No one can get hurt by the creation.

Younger children may need supervision while doing this activity.

More than one carton can be used for this project.


If a little inspiration is needed, consider the following ideas:

A game, building/town, planter, animal, catapult, instrument, bird feeder, diorama, lantern, vehicle, desk organizer, alien or another creative creature, etc.

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Think Quick Challenge: ABC Version

This Think Quick Challenge makes learning, and using, the alphabet much more fun and interesting. Plus it keeps you on your mental toes!

You will need: A plain set of alphabet cards, tiles, dice, blocks, etc., and a container

Letters can be written on index cards or printed from Activity Village.
Optional: Timer, pencil, and paper

Place all the letters in the container and have a player choose one to start the game, after you decide which version you would like to play.

Here are the challenge choices…

  • Have a player choose a letter and then say 5 words that start with that letter as quickly as possible (set fair time limits for the players that need extra time). Set the letter aside when the player’s turn is over. The next player will choose a new letter and say 5 words in a the time allowed them. The play continues until all the letters have been used.  Alternately, one player can choose a letter and all the players can take turns saying a word that begins with that letter as quickly as possible until someone gets stumped. Offer a time limit of 3-5 seconds.
  • One player can choose a letter and all the players can write or draw 5 things that begin with that letter within 30 seconds or a predetermined time. Optional Challenge: Players can cancel out duplicate words as they share what they wrote or drew. Decide on a scoring system.
  • Choose a letter and find 2-5 objects around the house that begin with that letter as quickly as possible. Decide on a time limit and a point system.
  • Start with a category such as an animal, something that flies, a story, movie, song, country, etc. and say 2-5 things that begin with the letter chosen. Write, draw or take turns saying answers.\
  • Make up your own fun and challenging version and write down the rules so you can play it again later. Come up with a time limit and a scoring system to make the game more interesting.

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Summertime Fun: August, Volume 1

Mini Marble Run – Make a mini marble run with straws and B.B.s
Creative Inspirations #3 – Take time to get creative with the two words offered for the month.
Soda Pop Project – Learn how soda got its start and make some delicious concoctions of your own!

Bottle Roll Bullseye – An open-ended game.

Ideas For Homemade Water & Nerf Gun Targets – 8 Ideas for making your own targets with recycled items.
Think Quick: ABC Version – This game will keep you on your mental toes!
Roll-N-Score – A game made with a box or milk carton.
Pop & Play Dart GameThis dart game has a little twist to make it more fun.
Carton CreationsTurn a milk carton into a whole new creation…suggestions offered.

Hoop TossA fun game to play indoors or out!

Heads-Up Coil Flips & TricksHow nimble are your fingers and how quick are your hands? Find out with these activities!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand WordsUse a picture to inspire a story.

Last One StandingA strategy game the grows with the players and gets more challenging.

Animal TrackerLearn how to identify signs of animal life in lots of different places!

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Make Your Own What’s Missing Picture

Play this game inside or out. Here’s what you’ll need to make the picture or play the game…

A camera and 10-20 different items

Optional: Paper, something to draw with, and stickers.

Camera Version: Put your items on a table or in the grass and take a picture. Remove one or two items and take another picture. Give the pictures to someone and ask them to tell you what’s missing. Take a variety of pictures to make multiple puzzles for people to solve. Remove 5+ items to make it more challenging. Items can be moved around as well.

Picture/Sticker Version: Draw a picture then draw the same picture and add to it or take things away. Incorporate stickers into your picture.

Multiplayer Version: If you have multiple players, gather up a bunch of items, then have one player lay them out any way they like. Give the other players 30-60 seconds to see what’s there and how they are displayed, then ask the players to turn around.
The person who set up the table can take an item and hide it or move it. Ask the other players to turn around and take turns saying what’s missing or different.

Start with one item and move on to more. The player who guesses correctly
should be able to take a turn removing/moving items.

Tip: Consider taking a picture of the items before anything is moved.

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