When your 4-year-old starts trying to "read" on his own and listens attentively during story time, he may be showing signs that he is ready to start learning how to read. Though you may be eager to get your child started on the road you are certain will lead to Harvard and a Nobel Peace Prize, experts warn that subjecting your child to a formal reading program and drills will only undermine your efforts. Instead, it is important to find ways to make reading fun and exciting for your preschooler to encourage a natural love of learning.
Read books that your 4-year-old enjoys out loud together. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that this is the single most important activity for building the skills that your child needs for reading success.
Use funny voices and make sounds when you read. HealthyChildren.org says that being a bit of a ham when you read can make reading fun and get your child excited about reading. Use different voices for each of the characters, point emotion in your voice to match the tone of the story and make the sounds that the animals make. Consider yourself a one-person play, acting out all the parts.
Ask questions about the pictures you see or what's happening in the story as you read. The NAEYC says that this encourages children to get involved with the story and to make connections between what they're hearing and the words on the page. Stop to answer any questions your child might have as you read.
Run your finger under the words as you read them. HealthyChildren.org says this will help your child learn to associate the words on the pages with the words that are being spoken.
Sing nursery rhymes and read rhyming books. The NAEYC says that rhyming activities help to build phonemic awareness, or an understanding of the sounds of words, which is an early indicator for literacy. Practice singing these nursery rhymes together and have fun thinking up rhyming words together.
Watching fun but educational shows like "Sesame Street" or "Baby Einstein" may help your child learn about letters or sounds, which can help when it comes time to learn how to read.
Do not use flash cards or phonetic games with your child. These may make reading seem like work, which could make children resistant to learning how to read.