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Reading at Age Four
Q: I want to begin teaching my four-year-old to read. He knows all his sounds. What are some good books for him to start off with? Software, phonics program, etc.?
A: Four-year-olds learn through play and hands-on activities. Few are ready for formal reading instruction that stresses isolated skills such as the alphabet and phonics. Let your son's interest in recognizing words set the pace for the instruction that you give him.
The key to preparing your child to read is in reading to him as much as you can. Use wordless books so he can read a book through the pictures before he learns to read print. Predictable books are good choices because they have patterned structures, predictable plots, and so much repetition that children can guess what is coming next and start "reading" them. Be sure also to expose your son to the traditional nursery rhymes and ABC and counting books. Read and reread these books.
When you read to your child, run your finger under the words from time to time as you read them. This will teach him that you read from top to bottom and left to right and that letters form words. Soon he will be able to read some of these words.
Other things that you can do to encourage your child to enjoy reading without forcing him to read are:
- Taking family trips to the library.
- Providing him with his own books.
- Sharing a daily reading time with him.
- Talking together before, during, and after reading a story.
- Asking questions about what you have read together, but not making it a right or wrong answer session.
- Knowing your child's attention span and not reading beyond it.
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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.