51 answers

How to Teach My 4 Year Old to Read

Hi! I am looking for any advice on how to teach my daughter to read. She knows all of her letters and sounds so I thought I could give it a shot this spring/summer. She is starting kindergarten in the fall. Are there any good programs I could buy to get started???

What can I do next?

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Hi Carmie,
You should try the leap frog videos from target, that is a good start for phonics about putting sopunds together and then we started with the BOB books. You can find these at borders or Barnes and Noble. They are very short and color coded for different levels. For example they might start out book A level 1-- Mat sat. They progressively get harder and more challenging but with them startting out so simple it is a good sense of accomplishment for them. Hiope this Helps. By the way we are still learning my oldest is now in 1st grade and I have 2 younger ones as well but that's what worked for my oldest.
H. P. from Yorkville

Try this webpage: www.starfall.com. It was recommended to us by my daughter's kindergarten teacher and we really like it. Good luck!

I've heard a lot about Bob books.I didn't have a chance to use them myself, but they have different sets for each level. I know they have them at the Algonquin library. There in th e easy reader section, you can ask the librian for the Bob books.
Hope this help,

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I read something on the internet about 5 months ago about is your child reading ready? Yes...my just turned 4 year old was...it talked about not pushing them like the others moms said...but it rec. BOB BOOKS...so off I went to ebay, and bought a like new set for 6 dollars....now my little one is reading everything she can get her hands on...I had never heard of BOB books...but tell all my friends about them now..check it out...I hope you had the luck that I did...Let me know how it goes..take care

1 mom found this helpful

My daughters also read way above grade level! I bought Hooked on Phonics, but returned it because it seemed 'dry' and did not hold their interest. Unless HOP has had a revamp since 2003 - 2004, it did not keep the attention of my daughters.

I LOVED (and so did my girls) Dick and Jane books! They taught them all of the high frequency words and once they memorize the high frequency words, we moved on to 'I Can Read It Myself' books, because they have the levels on them and they cover a wide variety of topics so I could always find ones that interested my daughters!

Good Luck!

I've heard a lot about Bob books.I didn't have a chance to use them myself, but they have different sets for each level. I know they have them at the Algonquin library. There in th e easy reader section, you can ask the librian for the Bob books.
Hope this help,

Our school district does a mixture of phonics and sight words. Start with small common words such as "the, it, and" etc....My daughter and son both brought little paper books home with picture sentences For example "This is my...." and following would be a picture of school, family, dog. Then they worked on phonics...knowing the sounds and sounding out words. Also, continue to read to your daughter and point at the words as you read them, they absorb a great deal. My daughter was reading before kindergarten and I think a great deal of that was dependent on my reading to her and my son and her listening to my son read his books. Good Luck!

I haven't had a chance to read the other responses, but we like The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.

Hi Carmie,
You should try the leap frog videos from target, that is a good start for phonics about putting sopunds together and then we started with the BOB books. You can find these at borders or Barnes and Noble. They are very short and color coded for different levels. For example they might start out book A level 1-- Mat sat. They progressively get harder and more challenging but with them startting out so simple it is a good sense of accomplishment for them. Hiope this Helps. By the way we are still learning my oldest is now in 1st grade and I have 2 younger ones as well but that's what worked for my oldest.
H. P. from Yorkville

Contact your local elementary school and find out what system or program they use. It works best if you use the same system they do. In our case, we just kept with identifying letters and "sight-words" that they should know on-sight, but didn't push it or formalize it in any way. When she got to kindergarten, they used a system called "Jolly Phonics". She got good, very fast, and is now in the top percentile in the state. We didn't do anything more than read TO her on a regular basis, point out easy words when they came along, and then followed the homework in kindergarten.

In digging around, it turns out that Jolly Phonics is a form of "synthetic" phonics. They teach the kids the letter groupings first, such as "ch" and the sound that they usually make as well as the sounds they can sometimes make. Then, slowly, they start assembling/synthesizing words out of the (suddenly obvious) sounds. This is the flip side of "analytic" phonics, where kids learn to take apart and sound out words. In a Scottish study, the kids in a synthetic phonics track shot very quickly past their analytic friends, I think perhaps a year and a half in reading fluency. By about sixth grade, it had leveled off to about 3-6 months advantage, with girls holding a higher spread than boys.

Get the BOB Books. They are great. We started our 4 year old boy about a month ago, and he's doing great! Read the reviews at Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles. Good luck!

I sell children's books- so this topic is close to my heart :) Phonics books are great. We also use fun phonics flashcards. I also bought our "Your Baby Can Read" program.

Above all- don't stress- kids learn at different timeframes- have fun and enjoy reading with her!

Good luck!

I will be short because a lot of great advice has been given. Of course... the #1 thing to do is read daily to your child and be excited about it.

I don't think this was mentioned, but maybe it was, I don't have the time to read over 30 responses! Anyway... certain t.v. shows on PBS are great to reinforce reading skills. These are the shows that I think are great for this....

Word World

Super Why!

Word Girl

All three shows incorporate learning to read and spell into their stories.


My son turned 4 last week. For the past 6 months or so he has gone from reading nothing to reading 3,4 and some 5 letter words. Here's how we did it. I would start with simple 3 letter words and write them on a magna doodle or something like that and have him make the sounds for each of the letters and then tell him to make the sounds really fast... and then we'd say oh b a t (sounds) makes bat.. and we went from there. After he started identifying words like that, we started doing some phonics computer games etc. But the one set of books thats really great is the Bob book series. You can find them online, at Barnes and Noble or I just get them from my library. They are wonderful too. But first I would just start slow at home with simple words once in a while till she gets the hang of it and really gets into it. My son now wants to try and read everything.. ofcourse, now if my husband and i dont want him to know something and we spell the word out, he just thinks in his head and tells us what we were saying... hahaha.. so much for that!!

Good luck.

I do not know of any programs other than hooked on phonics but 4 is young and she will learn to read in Kindergarten. She may know all her letters and sounds but if she is not ready to learn and you push for it, it may rebound. I sent my son to school right after he turned 5 this school year and he is reading very well. More than I thought he ever would at this age. My son knew all his letters and sounds very early as well and I felt the same way about wanted to teach him and in the end I just waited for him to learn in school. If she is showing an interest when your reading to her thats different, if she asks what is that word, you may just want to start there and help her sound it out but not to push. It may also be a short lived interest as well. We all want our children to excell, i'm sure she'll be just fine if you waited as well. Children are amazing.


Phonics, phonics, phonics!! Only 1 in 4 public schools teach phonics and it is the key to the joy of reading. I homeschool and I would highly recommend "The First Reader" by Phyllis Schlafly (Google it to get to her website) or "Teaching your child to read in 100 easy lessons". Kudos to your for trying to give your child a jump start. If she can sound out words and read well, she'll be MILES ahead of her class and well on her way to being an avid reader who LOVES it!!!

With my son we'd been doing everything mentioned, but he didn't seem to be putting the letters together that well. We were at the library one day, and the Leapfrog reading and math dvds were there. I think it's called Word Factory. They do a lot with putting words together. I'll tell you, he watched it twice in two days (it's about 35 minutes) and all of a sudden he was reading the contents of my fridge or signs outside.

If you're looking for a fun but not pushy way if she's right there, I suggest it. Be careful, though, because there's a sentence one too that's got Caper in the title. Make sure it's the word one.

The best way to help your child learn to read is to spend time reading together. Preschool children who learn to read do so when they are ready. Spending time reading books not only "to" her but "with" her is the key. You'd be surprised how much "reading" she's already doing. Lots of reading time together creates a relaxed atmosphere in which to foster confidence without the pressure of "mastery."


I'm a stay at home mom right now, but I worked as an elementary teacher for 8 years before I had my first son. I think it's great that you want to encourage reading with your daughter and it sounds like she's got a fantastic head start since she knows her letters and sounds. Personally, I wouldn't invest in any programs, and I wouldn't focus much on actually "teaching" her to read. Instead, I'd spend lots of time reading with her and talking about the books. You can ask her to predict what will happen next, or ask questions-not ones that have a right or wrong answer, but ones that get her to think about the story: Why do you think the character did that? How would you feel if that happened, etc? I have a feeling that she will learn to read quickly in kindergarten if she already knows so much, and that you can spend time helping her enjoy literature and think about it critically. In my opinion, that's going to provide a strong foundation for a love of reading that will translate into better success as she gets older.

Hi Carmie - my daughter will be 8 in June and she now reads at a 4th to 5th grade level. I started teaching her in kindergarten by searching the internet - I would type in words like free printable word family books and look through all the sites and print off the books. I must have gone through a couple of reams of paper. But it worked and she enjoyed the books. I would have my daughter read me one of those books at night before I would read to her. Try searching the internet - if you can't find the sites, I probably have them written down somewhere and can try to get the names to you. Also, go to your local Borders or Barnes and Noble and look in the beginning reader section - they have some good ones too. Good luck!

Isn't it fun to have a pre-reader. It is awesome to watch them discover new words adn word patterns every day!
It seems like you have plenty of good advice (BOB books, starfall.com, and the Leap Word Whammer - all of which I have experience with), but by far the BEST advice is simply to READ with your daughter everyday. I taught elementary school for 10 years and was even a reading a language specialist during that time too. I can't say enough how important reading with your child is. The best investment is your time (and maybe some good old Dr. Seuss books). Have fun. Play with letters and words adn it will come.

Please don't put her in a formal instructional program!!!!
One of the reasons that some children learn to read quickly and easily is that they LOVE it--they love EVERYTHING about it and you can cultivate that in your child by reading to her as often as you can. You can help her appreciate and acquire the knowledge of the relationship between the letters and words on the page and their meanings by having her dictate stories to you that she can then illustrate and "read" back to you. And please let go of the feeling that you must correct her reading. The words are a means of communication and at a time in the future she may need to be guided to the exact form that's there, but by that time, she'll be successful and she'll ASK for that information.

Children love stories...just do as much as you can with the printed word: Have her dictate letters and stories that you write for her; give her the books on tape that she can "follow" along with; the leapfrog STORIES are great, too as a tool. She can follow along with the pictures and hear the words and gradually will make the connections. The greatest gift that you can give her is LOVE of reading.

I read to my sons while they were in utero. I read to my sons off and on throughout the day and certainly at night. I wrote down their stories from the time they could tell me them. We played word games. They had the books on tape. Our house is filled with books. And they see me read, too. Both of them read before they were 4...I NEVER gave them formal instruction. Kids learn by playing. I see that you're working full-time, but your 11-year-old could read to her/his sister and what a treat that would be for both of them. Whatever time you make or have part of it could be spent reading. or doing something fun with words. Just enjoy and find ways to encourage her enjoyment
As you can see, I am quite passionate about this and you are welcome to contact me further if you'd like.

I teach second grade, but I have taught kindergarten in the past. I always have my students "pound it out", which means when they look at a work they dont know, they pound their hand for every sound. B-A-T. Then they pound a little faster. then faster again. Then hopefully they will sound out the word. I wouldn;t buy any programs. Keep practicing and askign her questions about the book and she will be great. I agree with the others about starfall.com.

My son is 5 years old. He started to read when he was 4. He's been going to a Christian school since he was 3. What I noticed is that they start of with teaching them the vowels, and the vowel sounds. Then after that they learned all of the sounds, they put the sounds in something they call a blend (ex. Ba,Be,Bi,Bo,Bu)using all short sounds. They did the blends for every letter. Once the kids learned the blends, the began to add 3 letter words (bat,bet,bit,etc.). They also taught them the long sounds for each vowel. They use the long sounds in words like (boat,bite,feet). With the long sounds, you have to teach him the 2 vowel rule which is if their are 2 vowels in a word, the first vowel makes a long sound, and the 2nd vowel is silent. I hope that this information will be helpful for you to get started. My son is in the top reading group in his class and I practice with him at home also.

God bless,
A concerned mother

My son is 3, and beginning to read. We've been using the BOB series. You can find them at most book stores. They come in a storage box and run about $16.95 per set. There are several sets too... leveled readers, so that you know exactly where to go when she's mastered the current level. At the beginning of each book, there is a "legend" where it lists the target sounds for that book (e.g. Aa = (drawing of an apple)= apple, Tt= (drawing of a table)=table) to help you child understand the letter/sound/print connection. Pictures are simple line drawings but interesting and cute. Check them out in a book store.

We love them!

I have 3 kids and I must say I did the same tricks for all three but they all progressed differently. My eldest learned through "closed captioned" on Sesame Street at the age of three. He is now 11 and reading level is 9th grade! My second started in Kindergarten reading level is average. My third is learning through memorizing books. She is now 4. Please view starfall.com. I got it off google search. I have them look around their surroundings and have them familiarize things like street signs(STOP signs, spell S T O P), it will click sooner or later. Have fun!

Wow I have just the book for you. "Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons" You can find it at any bookstore. I loved it. My husband and I used it for my son just before kindergarten. It only takes 20 mins. a day. Maybe start begining of summer. Thats what we did. By the time he started school he was reading. Of course not novels but beginer stuff. Its really easy. But be patient. Hope this is helpful.

I definately think readng to your child is great, I've doing it every night since he was 18 months old. I recently picked up a used 1996 set of Hooked On Phonics, my son like's it the tapes walk you through every step(we just started). I got mine for free through a web group called "freecycle.org" you can join groups in your area and ask for whatever you want and give stuff away yourself. It's a great resource for getting used things for children that they out grow way too quickly. Good Luck.

At our Kindergarten roundup(registration), the school recommended starfall.com as a good tool to work on reading skills.

Hi Carmie ~

If you don't own a "word wammer" <by leap pad> getting one of them is helpful. Also, do a lot of 'sight' words with her, as well as rhyming ~ like bat, cat, rat: Let HER tell you what more and more words can be rhymed together. Also, online review the sites about “starting kindergarten” – lots of them give you things she does need to know and learn, and you can work in those areas with her. Best of luck!! Our littlest started “K” last August and LOVES it!!

Does your child know blends? example: sh, wh, ch, bl, and if she does you can start her on site words. I would them get some of those first reader books and sit down with her and help her put words together.

A Beka Book Publications has a series of "Little Owl Books" that are great for getting your child reading after he learns letters and sounds. The books are little paper-back books and they teach the child the art of blending letters together to form words. The books start out with the short sounds of letters forming 3letter words that are easy for the kids to sound out and read. My kids all used them and really enjoyed learning to read with them. I'm a home-school mom of 5.
K. C.

when your daughter watches tv put on the close captioning so she can see the words as they are being spoken. my grandson did this and he learned very quickly. good luck

our four year old has started with the Bob Book series. they are simple and fun for beginning readers. if your daughter knows the letters AND the letter sounds shell pick one up and read it through with your help. i used the old sesame street method of having my son slowly combine the letter sounds until they connected to form the word... sssss aaaaaa mmmmm, sss aaa mmm, ssaamm, SAM! he read the first book in half an hour without ever having read a book before!
i ordered them online!
good luck:)

Since she knows her letters and sounds, buy some index cards and put words on them like, Cat, Dog, and, mommy, daddy, can, just small words first and then work on big words with more them 5 letters, You can even go to Wal-mart and they have work books for kids for PreK.
I hope this helps you out. You can also help her with math too.

They use the Jolly Phonics program at my children's school. It teaches them how sounds make letters and really works. I've seen portions of it at your local library.

We loved the book "How To Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy lessons". It uses the sounds of the letters rather than the names. You may be able to skip ahead.

FYI, the book finishes at a 2nd grade reading level, so we stopped around lesson 66 before Kindergarten and have not returned to it, but since used books from the library and school.

If you're not sure, borrow it from the library, I did, then purchased it.

Good luck.

There's a book called "Teach you child to read in 100 easy lessons." It's available at Barnes and Noble for about $20. Warning, though, if your daugher already knows how to read when she gets to kindergarten, she may be bored!

There are some boxed book sets at Barnes and Knoble- for about 12 dollars. I think we started witht he red box and gradually worked our way up. But, I would recommend working on sight words- we had ours on post its all over the kitchen and I try to review 3-5 words regularly. Good luck!

I agree with all of the other moms that have responded- starfall.com is wonderful FREE website that goes through all the letters- then sounds- then reading short stories with your child. Both my son (4.5 yrs) and my daughter (just turned 3) love the site! Another thing you could do is go to your kindergarten and talk to the K teachers and see if they will give you some of the material that you daughter will be using over the next year so that when she sees them in school she will already be familiar with them.
Learning the 100 sight words is also a must- flash cards work best and repeat, repeat and repeat again! My son has been doing flash cards now for 2 months and now loves to read the simple Cat in the Hat books that use a lot of the words he knows- he can sound out the short words he doesn't and he feels so confident in reading that he wants to read book after book!
Good luck!

My first question - and it is a very important one - is this: Does she WANT to learn to read?
If she wants to learn this skill, and she has learned the letters and sounds, it is no problem to learn to read. Reading with her and showing her how to sound out the words for herself, and giving her time to do it before you step in to help is the key - IF SHE WANTS TO LEARN. If it is your desire to teach her, it won't work as well - indeed, you may turn her off to reading. I had a daughter who approached me at the age of 2 1/2 asking me to teach her to read. Flustered, I said wait till you are 3 and I will teach you. She didn't forget and asked again on her third birthday. At this time she knew all her letters, and some sounds. I found a program of beginning phonics that was on records. I transcribed the records to cassette tapes, gave her a player and the tapes, showed her how to use the player, and told her that she could work with it whenever she wished, and could come to me with any questions at any time. This program gave her the tools to learn what she wanted to learn. By the age of 4 she was reading newspapers. I did NOT teach her, I simplly gave her the information - SHE did the learning because SHE had the desire.

Hi Carmie!

I have a 3-year-old son, and I have started doing the Pre-K Hooked on Phonics with him. He still has a little bit of a hard time focusing for it, but he enjoys it, and is getting better at his letters and the sounds they make every day that we work on it. It's got workbooks and CD-roms and card games to spread out on the floor and table. He really enjoys playing his own computer game that he calls his "hippo game". It seems like a great way to teach and involve a lot of different learning skills.

I bought the whole kit for about $60, but I think you can buy everything individually as well. Good luck, and have fun!

I have started teaching my 4 year old to read too. She is doing very well. I haven't purchased any programs, I just help her sound out words when she gets stuck. She can read most of the Dr. Suess books herself, they are by far the easiest b/c of all the rhyming. If you want to try something out with out having to buy it first, try your library they probably have hooked on phonics.

Best advice? READ, READ, READ some more!! Educators will tell you the best program in the world is the "parent" program, which is sitting with your child and reading with them. Why am I so adamant about this? Because I know personally that it works. Both my older kids were starting to read on their own before school, as is my 5 year old. Mostly because they have/had their own book shelf with tons of books. They get/got a story every night read to them either by me or their father. We hit Goodwill, yardsales and Halfpriced Books regularly.
On top of that? Make sure they have plenty of pencils, crayons and marks to draw with. It is just important that they work their fine motor skills by learning how to write.
Puzzle games with letters and words help too.
If you must have something more than that, look into Leapfrog. My daughter has a Leapster and loves it.
Trust me, this works. My stepdaughter couldn't recognize most of the letters in the alphabet when she was 5. After only a month of reading to her (her mother never did) and letting her color (she had no clue how) she knew her ABCs (not just the stupid song) and was on her way to reading! She is 9 years old and always has a book in her hand. She is currently reading the last book in the Harry Potter series. My 13 year old stepson was the same way, he could bearly read when he came to live with us, was failing school (at 8 years old!). Now he is a straight A student and reads anything put in front of him. If that isn't proof that reading works, I don't know what is!
Oh. Have a bookshelf in their room that has their books and a shelf with half a dozen "special" books that you like. Occassionally let them pick out a favorite. =) If you do this around your two other children they will pick up the bug too. Even your 11 year old will love hearing you read.

I am a reading teacher and tutor and I am a big fan of phonics. Try sitting down with her and sounding out a couple sounds together at a time. Begin with basic reading (3 letter words ie. hat cat mat mop sat lot hot...then go to 4 letter words like spot shot snap...Do not teach her long words at the beginning. I could give you more concrete detailed explanation to how to go about it but either way I would not stress about it. She's very young.

This is the best set I have found, simple and direct. Kids teach themselves! I used it for my own four kids ages 40-43 when it was records (lol) and bought multiple copies when I was a children's librarian for my department. It is wonderful both for remedial and new learning for young ones. All my kids were reading fluently before kindergarten. http://www.careerpublishinginc.com
It is $119 now, but still a bargain.

Hope it helps.

My sister swears by hooked on phonics..

As a Teacher's aide at the middle school level, just let me say Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an involved parent!!! I see so many kids who still haven't learned to read by this level, and I feel for them, because it makes everything do mych harder!
Anyway, I recently attended a seminar on reading, and figured out that there are so many different ways, that if one doesn't work, try another! They have books out called Rebus books (I used to get mine at Walmart) That had pictures with the words, to help. Google Phonemes and phonics to find some other helpful sites. There are wonderful online games that teach spelling, and reading www.storyit.com is a fun site, maybe a bit advanced, though. I am constantly looking for new sites, as I work with a child with Autism, who has trouble with hearing the different sounds in words and some of the teachers think that "sight words" are the best way to learn... I think that they are good in addition to phonics, phonemes (The different sounds in the words, not just the different letters.) But from what I have seen in the classroom, they aren't practical for kids who aren't L/D.
My kids are fluent readers, and the main thing I did is read to them every day, at least one book before bed, most of the time more, because they absolutely LOVED story time! (On a side note, it took my youngest a bit longer, because her older sister talked for her ALL the time-- I think that can hinder the reading process, too, because it is all language related.) Just my thoughts here, no proven studies! ;)
Anyway, good luck!

If you read the books over and over and track the words with your finger or have her to use her finger that should do the job. She'll be reading in no time. Find some flash cards and learn the basic sight words for pre-primer and primer which you can lookup online in a search engine. These words once memorized and known on sight will allow her to read any book at her level.

Try this webpage: www.starfall.com. It was recommended to us by my daughter's kindergarten teacher and we really like it. Good luck!

I wouldn't buy anything. I just think a lot of those programs are sorts of scams. I would continue reading to her as much as possible and also try out Starfall.com. It's a great (and free!) website to help kids read. Also, maybe you can talk to her preschool teacher about more ideas?

Good luck!

Let her watch pbs. My just turned two year old can identify all his letters and all the numbers up to twenty and I DIDN'T teach him. Imagine my surprise!!! Also, reading every day to her will help.

I got my masters in reading and I would say the next step is to keep it fun.... label everything in the house that you can or maybe just her room with words. I would start her with three letter words like cat and dog and things that she likes. Play rhyming games with her. Have her try to write things. Books that have just one word to label things are great. The libraries always have tons of board books like this. The more words she is exposed to the and the more you expose them to her the faster she will soak them up. Make flash cards with the word and a picture, cut them out of grocery ads or sunday newspapers. Make it fun!!! She sounds like a bright girl!

I taught my 4 year old to read with hooked on phonics. I didn't use the tapes, just the workbook. You could probably get it at your local library. I got mine from my sister who also taught her kids how to read from it.

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