Top 10 manipulatives to improve reading skills

Last Updated on January 9, 2023 by Editorial Team

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Manipulatives are objects and tools that teachers employ in developing the reading and abilities in child with conditions like dyslexia. These are also used for providing hands-on learning solutions for word-building skills in early learners of the language. Manipulatives for reading can be in the form of flashcards, cubes, Cuisenaire rods, etc.

Advantages of using manipulatives for reading in teaching word building

Manipulatives for reading can be used as tools for engagement, gamification, and assortment activities that can help cultivate language skills in a child. Dyslexic children who find it difficult to identify the shapes of the letters or relate to the sequence of the letters in the words can benefit from the tangibility of manipulatives. They can use it as an alternative to conventional methods of reading and writing words.

Apart from dyslexic children, the teachers can befriend the early learners, too, with the letters and words using manipulatives for reading as an engagement tool. Listed here are the top 10 manipulatives for reading you can include in your teaching tool kit.

Manipulatives for boosting the reading skills in little learners

1. Learning Bugs Press to Learn Phonics

Learning Bugs Press to Learn Phonics

This Learning Bugs Sound wall provides a screen free and non-motion images experience, thus is easy on the eyes. It helps your child understand the alphabet letters and Sounds A to Z with the help of 5 educational modes. These are Letters, Phonics, Games, Phonic songs and kids songs. It conveniently hangs on the wall and hence is a mess free toy, giving your child an enriching experience of songs and gameplay while learning to read.

2. Learning Resources Sight Word Swat a Sight Word Game

Learning Resources Sight Word Swat a Sight Word Game manipulative for reading

Sight words are made in the form of flies in this vocabulary building kit to help the kids develop word identification and spelling learning skills. These flies are color-coded according to the level of study, such as – blue for pre-primer, red for primer, green for first grade, and orange and red for second and third grade respectively.

There are 110 double-sided, fly-shaped cards giving a total of 220 words to practice. When any of these words are called out, the student uses the swatter to swat the matching fly. This game offers an element of speed to help achieve fluency and reading confidence.

3. Picture My Picture Verbs Flash Cards

Picture My Picture Verbs Flash Cards manipulative for reading

This flashcard is designed to develop language skills leading to proficiency in communication and day-to-day conversations. These are two-sided flashcards in which one side features a picture and the other the name of the action the picture depicts. It helps in learning the 40 most used action verbs in an engaging manner, enabling the child to convey ideas better.

Used as a speech therapy tool, it is quite a useful manipulative for reading for children with conditions like dyslexia, autism, etc. This flashcard collection comes with lots of ideas and practice sets to be used in the classroom, thus, providing a very good aid to the teachers.

4. Wooden Reading Blocks

Wooden Reading Blocks

It certainly is a children’s toy that is beyond words. Spin the blocks around to form new words and teach your child the pronunciation, synonyms and spellings of each word. It is super handy, so take it to play dates and road trips. Works like a charm if you are worried that your child stays glued to the television set and mobile phone all the time. Set this in your child’s hand and see their vocabulary explode each day.

5. Carson Dellosa – Sentence Building Cards

Carson Dellosa – Sentence Building Literacy Resource with 86 Cards manipulative for reading

Learn to make sentences using a puzzle game. There are color-coded interlocking cards provided in this kit. Children learn about the correct sequence of words to be used for making a sentence. If any wrong card is chosen, the sequence does not happen.

This makes it easier for the children to pick the correct words and make sentences that make sense. It is quite useful for building language literacy in children. The children can learn from it important language concepts like parts of speech, punctuation, capital letter use with the help of 55-word placards, 4 punctuation, and 27 photo cards.

6. Little Treasures Letter Matching

 Little Treasures Letter Matching manipulative for reading

A very comprehensive solution for learning letter identification, spelling, and word formation with the help of picture cards and letter cubes. It promotes strategic thinking and sociability in children as it can be played by bringing two players together at a time.

This word picture match game offers learning by the way of memorization. It is also helpful in enhancing hand and eye coordination. Child or parent can put the cubes on the tray to form a word and the other player picks the corresponding picture. Thus, it offers a playful way of enhancing word recognition.

7. Learning Resources Vowel Owls Sorting Set

Learning Resources Vowel Owls Sorting Set manipulative for reading

This owl vowel sorting set offers an interesting way of learning vowel sounds. This reading manipulative contains five owls representing each vowel – a, e, i, o, u, and one blank one for y. The children go through the picture cards and pronounce the word. Depending upon the vowel it contains, they put the card in the corresponding vowel owl.

Apart from vowel recognition, the children get to enhance memory retention, word-vowel matching skills. About 100 picture cards are provided to offer the children the practice that they need for enhancing word-building concepts and language literacy.

8. Lower case lacing letters

Lower case lacing letters manipulative for reading

Lace the letters to understand the shape and look of the lower-case letters. You can move up the learning ladder and learn spellings by lacing the letters of the words in a sequential manner. Some early learners are taught the sequence of letters by lacing them as they appear in the alphabet.

It is an exciting kit for early learners and dyslexic kids who need to develop the concept of lower-case letters and spelling-building skills without actually writing the spellings. This reading manipulative is quite useful for enhancing motor skills too. The aims of teaching letter recognition, patterning, and sorting can be met beautifully using this manipulative.  

9. Orton Gillingham Decodable readers

 Orton Gillingham Decodable readers

Kids get to learn words with the same ending sound by playing this game. It is a fast-paced game useful for developing fluency in children apart from building vocabulary and spelling skills.

This manipulative for reading offers spelling learning support with the help of 92-word family cards provided in this kit. Two students, or parent and child, or teacher and child can play it together. Teachers can choose to start with a two-letter ending and then move to the three-letter ending as the children gain familiarity with this manipulative.

10. Sunnyglade 500 pc wooden tiles

Craft and learning come together in this 500 pc wooden tiles’ set. The children can learn sorting and arranging letters to form spellings. It forms a suitable alternative to writing for learning spellings for an early learner as well for dyslexic children.

The children can prepare a memorable gift for their parents by making their names or lovely messages; teachers can use it for carrying out spelling teaching activity in the class. This set contains about 500 letter tiles allowing the children to practice as many spellings as possible.

How to approach the use of manipulatives for reading in a classroom?

Using the manipulatives for reading to enable internalization of the language concepts in children can be achieved through:

  1. Discussions: Teacher can explain in a simple way that manipulatives are to be used according to rules. The students, however, can be allowed to explore and make new, and share new discoveries.
  2. Familiarizing: The kids need to have a sense of familiarity with manipulatives. Thus, the teacher can ask them to store and arrange to accelerate befriending process.
  3. Participation of parents: Some teachers introduce the manipulatives to kids’ parents too, so that they can understand the role of these tools in classroom learning.
  4. Posting class charts: Preparing charts of manipulatives to be used give a kind of heads-up to the kids. They can understand that manipulatives are teaching tools and something very important for their learning.

So, make spelling learning or vocabulary building a fun activity for the children by using manipulatives for reading mentioned above. These form suitable alternatives for building language literacy in dyslexics and form a strong foundation for early learners as well.


Reading is just not a way to clear school and university exams, but a way to know the world around you in the most cost effective manner. Inculcating a voluntary reading habit is thus essential to the overall personality development of the child. This is only possible if the child develops a certain confidence in his or her reading skills, and does not feel left behind compared to his or her peers. These manipulatives thus ensure that the child enjoys the whole process of introduction to reading and develops a certain nostalgia towards it, thus allowing it to blossom it into a habit.

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