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How to Teach a 4-Year-Old to Read

By Tricia Ballad ; Updated June 13, 2017

When your four-year-old knows the alphabet and shows an interest in language, he might be ready to read. You can teach this essential life skill at home, without expensive curriculum or a degree in early childhood education. You have already taught your child many life skills, such as dressing and using the toilet. Teaching your child to read simply takes time, patience and an awareness of your child's readiness.

Teach the Basics

Use alphabet flash cards to connect the name of the letter to the printed shape of the letter. Once your child can sing the alphabet song, he or she knows the names of the letters. Go through the cards and tell your youngster the name of each letter and trace it with your finger. Ask your child to repeat the name of the letter and then ask her to name a few words that begin with that letter. Spread the cards on the table or floor and ask her to pick up specific letters.

Teach the sounds that each letter makes once your child can recognize the letters. Continue to think of words that begin or end with each letter.

Introduce blends. Blends are consonant sounds that appear together frequently, such as "bl" and "gr." Show your child how to make each sound independently first and then say the sounds faster until they blend. For example, to teach the "bl" blend, you would say "buh" "lll." Then repeat the two sounds a little faster until you say "bl" as in "blend."

Keep reading fun. Sing the alphabet song, make up silly stories or read half a book and make up the ending together.

Help Your Child Read Independently

Use phonics readers that focus on a single sound or reading skill with short, simple stories. They come in a wide variety of sets that are themed to coincide with children's interests or are based on popular children's characters.

Encourage your child to sound out each word. If she is getting frustrated, show her how to blend the letter sounds together or explain the phonics rule that applies to that word. Unless the problem word is a sight word for which normal phonics rules do not apply, try not to simply tell her the word because this does not help her figure it out for herself next time.

Reading this way is slow, so set aside plenty of time. If your child gets bored or frustrated, end the lesson by reading one of her favorite stories.

Set aside 15 minutes per day as independent reading time. Try to schedule this for a naturally quiet time in the day, such as during a younger sibling's nap time or right before bedtime. Designate a comfortable place for reading time, such as in bed or in a special reading nook with pillows or cushions. Allow your child to choose a few books for this special time. They do not have to be phonics readers (although readers the child has mastered should certainly become part of his library).

Tips

If possible allow your child to pick out his own set of readers. If he is interested in the readers, he will be more likely to practice reading on his own.

Warnings

Some four-year-olds are ready to read, while others are not. If your child is frustrated at any point, stop immediately. He might not be developmentally ready. Take a break from reading lessons for a few weeks and simply read to your child. When he is ready, you can try again.

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