Four Year Old Wants to Read! Now What?

Updated on February 28, 2012
D.S. asks from Prairie Village, KS
17 answers

Hey mamas!

My little guy (he's been 4 for two months) is very interested in learning to read. His teacher mentioned this to us at our conference last month and he's really stepped up his efforts lately. He points to words as I read them and tries to sound them out (although he's a bit naturally unfocused so this doesn't go so well). I am thrilled because I LOVE to read and am excited for him to start discovering words on his own.

The problem? I have no idea how to teach him! I feel like I'm already getting a little frustrated because I don't know how to explain the words or the process of sounding out or whatever to him. I have always had high regards for teachers because it is not easy to know HOW to teach and will admit that while I know a lot, I can't communicate most of my knowledge to anyone. Natural teaching ability is a gift!

One big issue we have is that he has most of his books memorized. And we have a ton! Even after just one reading of a new book, he remembers a large portion of it, often word for word. So that makes it difficult to sound something out or see a "fresh" word. Just by looking at what page we are on, he can tell you what it says, but he is not reading it. I try to cover the pictures up before he sees, but he also knows the order of most things.

He has gone through OT at our children's hospital because he is a high sensory seeker (with some integration issues). They explained he takes in about 5 times more information than I do in any given setting, but has a hard time processing it, especially quickly. So I'm not surprised he remembers his books even if we haven't read them in a while because he has stored this information and can easily retrieve it as well, but it does make it difficult for him to pay attention to me when I'm "teaching" him at that moment and kills the element of surprise with a word.

Are there any books or techniques anyone can recommend to help me be a better teacher so I don't squash his eagerness to learn to read with frustration on both our parts? Keep in mind I'm not pushing him or necessarily wanting to put him on some sort of system/regimen. He is the one asking about the words all the time and stopping during our stories to ask what each word says or trying to guess where a particular word is on a page. I plan to keep reading to him for years, even after he can read, as well.

He always shows me that I don't know as much as I think I do!

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answers from Detroit on

My daughter picked up reading really early, and the only thing I ever did was read (A LOT) and follow the words as I read them with my finger so she could follow along. I never bothered to sound anything out. They did that in school. We also went to the library every week and got new books, because she really seemed to need them.

I believe she truly started reading when my youngest was born and I couldn't sit down with her and read as much as she wanted me to (and she was a late three at the time). So, I think if you just provide him with what he needs and some patience, he'll take off on his own. Enjoy!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Both my kids learned to read about his age at They think they are just playing on the computer, and I didn't do a thing. My son is in Kindergarten and is reading at least 1st grade level, and my daughter was tested in 2nd grade as reading on a 5th grade + level.

So, it works! And the kids love it.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Rochester on

The best technique I have found for learning to "sound things out" is called "finger stretching." I'll try to explain it. :)

Have your child make a fist. For each letter (start with words that have the same number of sounds as, for example), you will stick out one finger for each sound. So, stick out one finger and say "ck", the next finger and say "aaa" and the third finger and say "tuh." It helps the child integrate that each sound is separate, but that they come together to make a word.

It's important to teach basic phonics before attempting to have a child sound out words. Teach him the letter sounds that go with each letter...ah, buh, cuh, duh, eh, fuh, guh, and so on.

I really like K12's phonics program, but their K curriculum would probably be a bit advanced at this age.

I don't agree that him having books memorized is a downfall...I think it's a plus. Because he knows what the words are, teach him that each words corresponds to each "set of letters" on the page, in that order. So if he knows the page says, "Look at those dogs go!" You can show him that the word look is spelled "l o o k" and that to sound it out, we would go "luh, oo, cuh." Of course, oo is tricky because it makes both a long, short, and a long schwa sound.

There are just too many things to go into on here. I would honestly look into getting a good phonics program to help you out, and take it that route. Sight words have their place..."to" for example, should be spelled "too" phonetically, but it's spelled "to, two, and too." I wouldn't start with sight words!! :)

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Reading is great!! Give him books and ask him to read to you!!!

ENCOURAGE him to ask about words - their meanings and pronunciations!! This is WONDERFUL!!!!

Just let him lead....that's what I did. ask him to pick out books he is interested in. Take him to the library! Talk to his teachers and ask them how they are working with him on reading - everyone teaches it differently - i would strongly encourage him to sound it out instead of phonics.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm using "teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons". So far so good. Book has rave reviews, but we just started so I will reserve judgment. You just follow step by step.
You could also look into the hooked on phoenix reading programs.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Hi D. ~

My daughter learned to read by learning letter/alphabet sounds. I think it's the same as what MrsLaraville was trying to explain. Here is a link to youtube w/a song & sounds HTH. Happy reading to you & your little guy.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Read to him every night.
Read signs and have him read signs
Read labels,

Every time you see a word, read it

Get the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It works and it takes abotu 20 minutes to 1/2 hour a day. It's phonics based.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Just to add to other good advice here -- Is the local library part of his life? Make at trip there at least weekly and get lots of new books. It is indeed good, as someone else noted, that he has books memorized. But if you want new ones, and want him to have a lifelong love affair with the library, have him decorate his own tote bag just for library books and take him there at least once a week and check out the maximum number of books!

I'd talk with his teacher before trying any "how to teach your child to read" lessons. That might risk turning him off. Engaging stories on topics that really interest him are more important right now. (A lot of boys tend to stop loving to read as they get older; it's seen as less important and less cool than being athletic or being on the computer, and there are not as many books to interest them; as boys get older they want less of fictional stories and more books about topics they find interesting--so don't forget to introduce him now to nonfiction too, so he knows there is a wide world of book types out there as he gets older. Do some research about boys' reading habits to find out more as he ages.)

For now, just keep reading to him and having him try to read everything possible -- like sounding out signs in stores, labels on items, etc.!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Our kiddo loves "Zoophonics" - it teaches the letter sound before the child learns the alphabet (though yours might already be able to identify every letter). Allie alligator says "ah"; Bubba bear says "buh", etc. Eventually the letter/sounds are combined to make a word: Catina Cat says "kuh", Allie Alligator says "ah", Timothy tiger says "tuh". "kuh...ah...tuh" "kuh-ah-tuh" "cat".

Here's the link:

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I taught my daughter how to read at age 4 using the book "Teach your Child to Read in 100 easy lessons". It was a great book and by day 60 my daughter could read any easy reader. It really was such a fun and rewarding experience for both of us:)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Get him some Leap Frog videos or the fridge magnets. My youngest has speech issues and he loves those. When I read to him now I will ask him to find a word on the page by saying the word and then he will sound out the first letter and he gets so excited when he can find the word. The Leap Frog videos and magnets are great because there is a little song to go with the letter sounds.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Go to the library and get books on teaching reading.. teach your child to read in 100 lessons is good. there are others.

make sure he knows all the letters and all the sounds .. M says MMMM

teach him the vowel sounds.. short sounds a e i o u.. make rhyming word (either write or use magnetic letters..) hat cat bat. after you have gone through lots of short vowel words-using all the vowels teach the long vowel sounds. easy ones like hat with the short a.. add the silent e and it is hate... teach the sh ch th sounds.. dont forget ph... I like the magnetic letters.. my 4 year old taught himself to read from superwhy on TV and

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Check out "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". It is available on Amazon for less than $15, or you can pick it up in a Barnes & Noble store. We used it with both our kids. Son was reading fluently at 4 1/2. Daughter started earlier (she begged me, sounds like your son a bit) and was fluent by her 4th birthday.

It gives step by step directions to YOU, the parent, on what to SAY even, during the lessons. It is literally 100 lessons. And none of them take more than about 30 minutes. Most of them (the first half of the book) are 20 minutes or less.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Well, I suggest study first the basics how to teach your kid to read. In my case, I followed the steps and tips included in this site to help my daughter learn how to read.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

how about just getting him some new books that he doesn't have memorized, and forcing him to take it one word at a time?

my son is 5 and is going through similar things. he is constantly reading out letters to me "mom what does m-a-c-h-i-n-e spell?" and asking how to spell words. most of them we sound out. "okay sound it out. "BUH-AH-LLL" he can tell me it starts with "B", and then "A", then he can tell me it's an "L" sound and i just let him know it's two "L's" (ball)...i don't know, i'm not a teacher, but he asks, so i tell him how to spell it lol. he has a lot of "easy reader" books that he's practically reading himself at this point - we get him space books because he LOVES anything to do with space, so he stays interested. good luck! a lot of good advice so far!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Bob Books are great for teaching a child to read. They come in boxes for different levels. Just start at the beginning and work your way up. Really, just reading with your child as you've been doing works wonders. Good job, Mama! Have fun!

Bob Books are available at libraries, online, and at book stores.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I taught our last 3 to read with home school curriculum and it was so fun for them but also I enjoyed it so much. All 3 read very well now. I used Abeka material and they have a great phonics program that just makes reading so easy if you follow through all the sounds with them. They have 4 year old material.

1 mom found this helpful
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