Glenn Doman’s method of teaching a baby to read: in brief

by Alenka

Glenn Doman, the director of the Human Institute of Achievement of Human Potential, firmly believes that learning to read is the same skill as learning to talk and and to walk. Moreover, the years of study led him to the conclusion, that reading is not only what separates us from animals, but it also every human’s birthright. Therefore an opportunity for it should be offered as early as possible: if you can start right after birth, by all means do, but if your child is already older – don’t delay it any longer!

Not everybody agrees with him. Feel free to find out more on opposition to the whole word method. And many of us wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity: for another point of view, read Elizabeth’s take on it in Whole word method – harmful for kids development?.

First of all, Glenn Doman belives that kids are too smart to bore them with inidual letters, phonics and other methods. Over the years of working with children, he discovered that you can teach your child to read in just 90 seconds a day. How? By showing them large whole words a few times a day (see more details in a brief summary of his method below). Is that all?! Well, almost. Glenn Doman’s recipe for success is the following:

  1. Mother (father or other primary caregiver) – Glenn Doman believes, that parents are the best teachers and it is their love and confidence in their children that provide their kids with the best inspiration, regardless if the they are staying at home with the child the whole day, or working and able to spend just a few hours a day.
  2. The attitude and approach – expect learning to be fun and the best possible game, the greatest adventure – and your child will enjoy it too: hugs, kisses, giggles – work much better then ability to sit still and listen. Learning should always take place when both parent and child are happy.
  3. The size and orderliness of reading material – the younger the baby, the bigger print should be used!
  4. Start as early as possible – the younger the child, the easier it is for him to learn
  5. Always stop before your baby wants to stop – one of the most important rules: the child should be begging for more. If your child gets tired after 5 slides, show him just 4, but leave him hungry for more.
  6. Don’t bore your child! – introduce new material often, show it quickly. If the child is not interested, probably you need to show it even faster, and update even more often!
  7. Consistency – it is better to show less words more often, more consistently, then more words occasionally. Kids learn by repetition. As long as you update your material often not to bore them…
  8. No testing! – testing is a sign of distrust, it is the opposite of fun. So, absolutely no testing. Though… there are some tricks that can keep your spirits up by showing that your child is actually learning, and will turn out to be even more fun for him!

Intrigued? Well, I was. You can read my personall opinion on why teach your children to read. Once you are done with the wonderful review of the method below, you can jump start your reading program!

Update: Laurie Tiemens wrote a really brief and really straight to the point sequence of steps for teaching kids to read. You can find it on eHow: How to Teach Your Baby to Read. It is really Doman’s method in a nutshell. Please provide your rating and add a comment in the end!

And now, the summary of the actual approach, kindly shared by Laurie Tiemens, the moderator of TeachYourBabyToRead group:

Summary of
Glenn Doman’s Reading Program

Once you read this summary I urge you to get the book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read, by Glenn Doman . It explains things in so much more detail and gives you a good grasp on why this program works. Once you know the why’s it will help you to hang in there if things get tough. I offer this summary for those who are eager to get started right away.

Can a Baby Really Read?

Why Bother to Teach Your Baby to Read?
Teaching your baby to read will cause your baby’s brain to grow. Brains grow with use just as muscles do. Babies’ brains are developing faster in infancy than they will in later childhood. Since they have a greater ability to adapt based on environment than older children, babies’ brains can possibly learn to read in a more efficient manner if a baby learns early. Children learn language skills faster and easier in infancy so it is easiest to teach them to read as babies than at any other time. Reading is one of the most important skills a parent can teach a child. Reading is fun for babies and toddlers. Learning to read puts them permanently ahead as proven in controlled studies. The window of opportunity for learning reading begins to close by age four. Learning to read influences many other aspects of a child’s life in a positive way.

Do babies want to learn to read?

Yes, because they want to learn everything! They are voracious knowledge hounds particularly for language, whether spoken and heard or printed and read.

When to Start a Reading Program

Good time to start – 3-4y,
Better time to start 2-3y,
Best time to start – 0-24mo

2 vital points:

  1. your attitude and approach

    1. joyous and enthusiastic, it must be approached as a superb *game*
    2. teach at a time of day when both you and your baby are happy
    3. best duration for reading sessions is 30 seconds or less
    4. always stop before he wants to.
    5. Introduce new material when your child is ready for it – follow his lead
    6. be consistent with doing your program
  2. size and orderliness of reading matter

    1. large size print – why?

      The size of the print is crucial to your success. Very young children have immature visual pathways. If the print is too small they get frustrated because they have to work so hard to see the type. If you and I had to read type that was too small we might not want to read either.
      See what I mean? You’re ready to stop, aren’t you?
    2. Make a gradual transition from large to small print and from words to couplets to short sentences to longer sentences one change at a time

Materials needed – Large word cards 4″ x 22″ (6″x 22″ if newborn)

  1. stiff paper that does not wobble like poster board – precut from or cut on paper cutter
  2. red words
    1. 3″ tall, (5″ if newborn)
    2. ½”-5/8″ thick stroke
    3. ½” margins
    4. print words using lower case letters
    5. after a few months you will start to progressively transition to normal sized, black letters
    6. the front side is the child’s side, on the back is your side where you should write the date you started showing the word as well as the word itself; that way you will know what the front of the card says without turning the card around
  3. Word choice
    1. words about his world starting with his body and family, then home and interests
    2. use nouns, verbs and adjectives mostly – the rest he’ll pick up in context this helps avoid boredom
    3. make at least one month’s worth of word cards before starting your program


Reading Pathway Your Child Will Follow

  1. Reading sessions
    1. Where
      1. as few distractions as possible
      2. you facing him if at all possible
      3. sitting on your lap is second best option
    2. How
      1. as quickly as possible, 1 card per second or faster
      2. as enthusiastically as possible
      3. look at your child while saying the words
      4. stop before he wants to
      5. each set can be from 1-10 words, take cues from child
      6. don’t forget a hug and kiss when you’re done
      7. do not ask child to repeat the words
      8. shuffle the cards so you’re ready for the next session
      9. wait at least 15 minutes before doing the next session
      10. First week (assuming your child continues to be interested in seeing 5 words per set)
        1. Day 1 Set 1, Show Word A 3X/day
        2. Day 2 Set 1, Show Word A+B 3X/day
        3. Day 3 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C 3X/day
        4. Day 4 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C, D 3X/day
        5. Day 5 Set 1, Show Word A, B, C, D, E 3X/day
        6. Day 6 Set 1, Retire Word A, Show Word B, C, D, E, F 3X/day
        7. Continue adding a new word and retiring an old one each day
    3. Schedule
      1. Each set 3 times per day
      2. 30 seconds or less total teaching time per set
      3. Retire words after you show them 15 times each
      4. Never show them again as single words
      5. Do up to 5 sets per day – as many as you can do consistently.
      6. After a while you will find that it takes less showings for your child to learn them. This is because his brain has grown with use.
      7. Eventually your child will only need to see a word once to learn it!
    4. Attitude – joyous!
    5. New material – don’t wait until he knows 100% of the words or he will get bored
      1. New words can be added daily and old words retired daily as above
      2. Alternatively, whole sets can be started and later retired at the same time but this method is definitely not preferred.
    6. Words to start with – see word banks
      1. Self words
      2. Family words
      3. Home environment words
      4. Objects in his world
      5. Possessions
      6. Food
      7. Animals
      8. Actions
      9. Anything that is of interest to him
  2. Show him at least 200 words before adding the next step
    1st step – single words described above
    Continue with this step for as long as you are doing a reading program with your child.
  3. 2nd step – couplets
    1. Couplet is simply two words presented together
    2. Make couplets using words already taught
    3. Show 1-2 sets of them each day along with the sets of single words
  4. 3rd step – Phrases
    1. 3 words like “Mommy is eating.”
    2. Can be added as a set of cards or learned via game or books.
  5. 4th step – Sentences
    1. Includes noun, verb and object and usually have at least four words.
    2. Taught in the same way that phrases are taught.
  6. 5th step – Books
    1. If a child is under 3, you will probably need to make your own books by cutting up commercial books and supplying the large print.
    2. If your child is already 3yo, find books with 7/8″ type.
    3. Make books with few words per page on his interests,
    4. Words only on one layout, next page can be picture
    5. Use one book per week, read 3 times per day


Adapting the Program to Your Child

  1. If you are starting with a child who is 0-18mo : the closer your child gets to 18 mos the quicker you should present it and the briefer your sessions should be.
  2. If you child is 18mo – 30 mo: start gradually but move to phrases as soon as possible majoring on his interests.
  3. If your child is 30-48 mo: The older he is the more sophisticated the words you should teach him. You will need to be sure to use the retired words in books for review as he will need it.
  4. If you child is already 48 mo or older: Don’t lose heart. Glenn Doman: “A 4yo is a fire-eater compared to an 8yo or even a 6yo…There are thousands of superb readers who started when they were 4.” Just be sure to start with very sophisticated words about what he is interested in. Use a thesaurus extensively. And go to books as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, write the book first and then teach the words that you will need for it.


Other Points

  1. Long-term project – It takes many months to teach your baby to read.
  2. Attitude – critical to the success of your reading program
  3. Consistency – start out slow, get your program well-established before starting to add more
  4. Never, never, ever, ever test your child! Reading must always be a game where he always wins! It’s okay to show him two word cards and say, “Can you find Word A?” But if he starts to reach for Word B you must quickly say with a smile in your voice something like “Oh, you found Word B!” or “Here’s Word A!” The more you test him, the slower he will learn and the less he will want to. The less you test him, the quicker he will learn and the more he will want to learn.
  5. Time Involved – about 5 minutes per set plus material preparation
  6. Do’s and Don’ts
    1. Don’t bore your child, especially by going too slow or testing him.
    2. Don’t pressure your child.
    3. Don’t be tense.
    4. Be joyous.
    5. Be inventive.
    6. Answer all your child’s questions.
    7. Give your child worthwhile material to read.

Okay, you’ve read the summary. Now go get the book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read, by Glenn Doman. It explains things in so much more detail and gives you a good grasp on why this program works. Once you know the why’s it will help you to hang in there if things get tough. It is available on , most local libraries in the USA, and through . I do recommend getting the most recent release which is the 40th anniversary edition.


  1. Angsumalin

    I want buy the book ” How to teach baby to read and another ”
    I live in Thailand.
    Can you tell me ?
    Thank you very much.

    My name is ying Tel. Number (066)02-5834241, 081-4943132

  2. shyam

    Read your methods to teach children to read interesting and workable. A learning lesson for parents and children.

  3. Laura

    I’ve been trying to figure out how the sets work with various categories of words – I’ve made sets of flashcards with my daughters favorite words, one of body parts, and one of family members. When I show her three sets a day, should each set of 5 cards be from the same or different categories?

    That is, should I show her all the “favorite words” set before moving on to family or body parts? Or can each set be cycling through words in a different category?

  4. Nixon B. Princesa (Philippines)

    Found a book by Glenn Doman sometime in the late 70′s when my wife and I had more time to bond and interact with our children. The older children from year 1 – 3 had (they could read the syllables after they had perfected whole word exercises) excellent reading skills but because of financial constraints, I had to work double time to feed the family. Same was true with my wife. Eventually, the children regressed and became like other kids with limited vocabulary and reading abilities. I wish I had more time then.

  5. may

    Hi I am a mother of 2 children one 21 months and the other 5 months. I very eager to start teaching them how to read. However I am confused about the method. On the first day
    according to the method above it saids day1, set 1 show word A 3x/day does this mean I should only show one word from the set of 5 I have 3 times in day 1.

  6. Alenka Post author

    Pick a set of 5 words and show the whole set 3 times a day. Actually, these are just guidelines, so if you decide to show just one word, or if your kid is patient enough for a 50 right from start (I wouldn’t start with the set this huge, but just for the sake of the argument) – no harm done. 5 is a sample, rather small number of slides that are fast and easy to show.

  7. Nirali Shah

    My son Aaryan is 6months now. I introduced the flashcards method of reading since he’s 1 month old. He is now throughly enjoying the brief sessions which I do with him on a daily basis. He responds to every flashcard by moving his hands legs cooing and smiling. Glenn Doman is a god to parenting!

  8. Winnie

    My son is now 19 months old. He already can read all upper and lower case alphabets. I recently show him some word flash cards with font size about 1 inch high with black color font. He seems can see it. I’ve been showing him the same set of 5 words for few days. He seems lost interest. So, I am thinking to follow Glenn Doman’s method now. Should I still use this 1 inch card? Or I should use the 3 inch red fonts?

  9. Palak

    Hi, I just attended the Doman WTD course and loved it. Started the Reading program with 3 sets. My son is 16 months. I notice sometimes that after word 3-4 he looses attention and looks away. what do i do. I am trying to go as fast as possible but since the cards are big handling them takes a bit of time
    if he gets distracted should i still continue or put away. also should i let him touch and play with the cards after the sessions. Thanks

  10. Alenka Post author

    3 sets at the busy time of exploration at 16 months – that’s terrific! If your baby gets distracted after 3-4 word-cards, I’d limit each set to 3 words. At Doman books they insist to stop before your baby wants to stop, so it is better to show less then it is to bore him. You can add the word-cards back later, when his interest grows. It can be frustrating – we are creating the words, have such a hard time fitting it into our schedule, put all our lives on hold… and the baby seems to lose interest. But its important to remember, that babies learn only when they are interested, so keeping up with their level of interest and spicing it up with tons of hugs, kisses and excitement coming from mommy – are all crucial. Good luck! Share with us, how it goes!

    On a different note: Doman’s course must have been so exciting! How did you like it? What it was like?

  11. Johanna

    Hi I have a big confusion, hopefully somebody could give an advice. I plan to use the teaching method with my baby, I am still pregnant, but the thing is… my first language is Spanish, second English and I also speak German, my Husband is German and we live in Germany right now, so spanish and german are our priorities but according with I have read it is possibly to teach various languages at the same time, and I have seen it with some friends kids, but they don not read, just talk mixing languages, what about teaching how to read on 3 languages??? and just a new born baby?? Another questions would be if I should use pictures together the words as they recommend for foreign languages. I guess the same questions apply for teaching encyclopedia knowledge… I love the method but I feel confused. Thanks!! and good luck to all

  12. Alenka Post author

    Teaching baby to speak/read/write in all the languages that you know is a fantastic idea! I get to meet lots of people who are already successfully doing it, and my own little ones are fluent in both English and Russian, and understand quite a bit of Spanish. My 6 year old recently surprised me by starting to read in Spanish, which I didn’t know he could. Check this section for articles/disscussions/materials that can help you to get started!

  13. Megan

    Hi, I am a full-time working mother and I have a 16 months old daughter. I introduced the flashcards method of reading since she was 8 months old. I play two sets per day and recently I noticed that she get distracted after 3-4 word cards sometimes even 1-2. She just looks away and keeps asking book. Then, I said to her, “Do you want card?” She’s shaking her head and answer book. Just to make sure that she understood my sentence I asking her another way, “Do you want book?” she’s knocking her hear and said yes. I tried to attract her attention by letting her touch the card after the sessions. My questions, shall I give her the book (the book full of pictures)? What should I do? I really need advice and help, please. Thank you.

  14. Izabela

    Hi, I just found out about this method, I wish I had known about it much earlier as my 6-year- old daughter is struggling with her reading skills and I spent hours each day trying to help her out… is there any hope for a 6 year old with this method if I start right away?

  15. Alenka Post author

    Isabella, the main rule of Doman is to “stop before your baby wants to stop”. If your baby can tolerate only 1-2 cards, it’s better to show her one, and leave her wanting for more. In theory it sounds great, but in reality, I’ve noticed that at different ages, different periods of the day, different moods it works differently. Even as a stay at home mom, I don’t have the luxury of showing the cards whenever I please – I have very few time slots and if it doesn’t happen at that time, it isn’t happening at all. So I’ve come up with many other ways to attract my baby’s attention and for each of my babies a different method worked. This is a list of things that can be tried to make watching the cards more appealing (and speeding up – how fast you show them really helps a great deal as well!!!):

  16. manar

    Hi,i have a big problem with time to do this method,my son is a boy with down syndrome (3 years old) goes to a day care every day and he has sometimes sessions for speech therapy, and i can not find enough time to repeat each set of words 3 times per day,any suggestions?thanks and good luck

  17. Agila

    Hey,I have started this Glenn doman method of teaching for my 3 yr old daughter. The problem what I am facing is she is not sitting in one place and concentrating.. Should I still continue or??? She brings all her toys to the room where I make her to sit.

  18. Springtimemum


    I have found your website fantastic and as a result of reading it have recently got a couple of the Doman books including Teach Your Baby to Read.

    I am sure I read somewhere that you step down the size of the card and letters for older babies but can’t find the reference anymore. Can anyone give me any ideas?

    Also am in the UK but struggling to figure out how to get card the size that is mentioned – best I can figure is getting A3 card but cutting it down seems more work than planning the words. We have a printer and for the Encylopedic Knowledge am getting the photos printed properly as that seems a fairly cheap option. I would like to print the words too or have them printed but struggling to think of a time-efficient approach.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be very welcome! :)

  19. Alenka Post author

    Doman’s suggestions are 11×11. My printer wouldn’t do that. So I did 8×11 (standard American paper size) without any problems.
    As for babies, really small ones need really large letters. When I was starting with my older son, he was 5 months old and I just used 11×14 and printed the words in the largest font I could. For my little one I ordered “proper” Doman site blank cards… and it was a disaster. Since I wanted to use a printer (I am a perfectionist and handwritten cards were acutely annoying to me, even thought babies really don’t care), printing on those cards was a nightmare: the cards were such a great quality, so slippery and shiny, that ink was just dripping right off and the printer was losing its grip! So after a while, we returned to ppt and 8×11 sizes. It was A LOT easier. It really doesn’t matter that much…

  20. sv

    hi how about words on A5 size cards ?
    would it be too small ?

    anyone who has tried and wanna share your experience ?

  21. MF

    Hi, i am really confused.. i have brougth these cards with the image on one side and word on the other. should we show the child the image and read out the word or just the word itself?
    i have been using flashcards since my girl is 11mth old.. please tell me i am doing the right thing…
    thanks alot for ur help.

  22. Alenka Post author

    Doman books recommend using word cards only, showing them quickly, reading only the word. I used pictures in my presentations, since it made it more attractive to my kids, who weren’t interested just in words. So I was showing the word, quickly reading it, and then showing the picture.

  23. Michal

    Hi folks,

    I’m pretty much interested in this but I have a language doubt. I’m Slovak, my wife is Polish, so which language should we use to start the method?would English be suitable? We have 11 months old daughter. Thanks in advance!

  24. Sammy

    I have a 9 month old and I read both ‘How to teach your baby to read’ and ‘How to teach your baby math’. My husband and I are bilingual speakers of English and our mother tongue and we would like our baby to know both languages. I created flash card for reading and I am currently preparing the math cards as well. We have started showing my baby the reading flash cards – however, my biggest problem (and question to all of you parents) is where do you find the time to show flash cards for English, math as well as play with them, all the household chores, etc.? I am barely able to show my child the English flash cards (5 sets) one time a day and between his naps, a 15 minute break between sets, etc. the day is over. I feel so miserable not being able to show him the 5 sets atleast thrice a day. Please please help! I would love for him to know English and Math for the bare minimum!

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