Teaching a Four-Year-Old to Read: A How-To Guide

When kids are learning to read, there are a variety of skills that are being developed, such as recognizing letter sounds, acquiring vocabulary, reading fluently and comprehending what they read. Below is a few tips on how to get your child started.

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Helping a Four-Year-Old Learn to Read

Pre-Literacy Skills

When you are teaching your four-year-old to read, you want to begin by making sure he or she has pre-literacy skills, which include differentiating between print and pictures and knowing that text goes from left to right. Your child needs to eventually be able to recognize upper and lower case letters of the alphabet; however, at age four, he or she may not yet be ready.

Letter Sounds and Phonemes

As your child sharpens pre-literacy skills, you can begin to teach him or her that letters represent sounds and that sounds make up words. For example, your child needs to know that an 's' makes a 'ssss' sound. To practice, use sounds to form words using colored blocks. The colored blocks can help your child visualize that words are made up of multiple sounds.

Phonemes are the different sounds that can be spoken or represented by letters. There are approximately 45 phonemes in the English language that your child must learn over time, often through learning phonics, letters and letter combinations. To teach phonemes, you can say simple words to your child and ask them to identify the beginning, middle and end sound.

Reading to Your Child

Before reading a book to your child, discuss it. Talk about the front cover, back cover and author. Ask your child questions about what he or she thinks about the book based on the pictures and the title. You may even ask predicting questions like, 'What do you think this book will be about?'

While reading, stop periodically and discuss the narrative with your child. Consider character motivation and ask your child to reflect on what's happened so far. Ask what your child would have done if he or she were in the same position.

After you finish the book, ask your four-year-old to use adjectives to describe the text, even though he or she won't yet know what adjectives are precisely. Is it funny? Scary? Exciting? Go over the book again and say certain simple words along with your child while putting his or her finger on the word.

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