When I was pregnant with my daughter who is now 3.5, my boss from the art school I worked at gave me a book about how to teach your baby to read. It was all about making flashcards and doing this rigorous schedule, that was so easy of course, where you show them a set of flash cards for a few seconds several times a day, and then you have to alternate cards out and add new ones in so you have to keep track of dates on the back...anyways, it seemed like a great idea at the time. I read the book, bought a bunch of poster board and a big red sharpie and spent hours making flashcards in the fashion outlined in the book. Well, we started using them a bit sometime between ages 1-2 and I don't know nothing really happened...we weren't able to keep up with the schedule.
Now my daughter is 3.5 and I was looking into preschools, but at the same time, I didn't want to pay for a "daycare" and commit to that schedual, especially because I love having her with me and doing activities together. I came across one really great school that teaches preschoolers math and phonics and they only go for 2 hours a day 2-3 days a week, the owner who homeschooled her children and is now a teacher has a special method of teaching at ideal times, in shorter periods of time to engage a child's short attention span. However, although I'd love to send her there, it was out of my price range. So I was looking for some resources to help me and I happened to request a book from the library not really knowing what it was, but it is AWESOME. I'm currently reading Mommy, Teach Me to Read! A Complete Easy to Use Home Reading Program by Barbara Curtis. A mother of 12, whom she taught all how to read and maintains the blog Mommy Life. This blog doesn't teach just reading by memorizing flash cards, it's the time tested phonics based approach.
I am loving this book and it really is easy to follow and incorporate into your routine with your kids...rather than a rigorous schedule that gets all messed up if you have things come up that interfere with it, with all kinds of cards to keep track of and make. We've been playing the sound game all the time. J caught on right away and it's been so fun to do this while going on a walk, in the car or at the dinner table...you can do it anywhere. Around the time I started reading the book, I also got my daughter the Letter Factory DVD by Leap Frog. This video teaches phonics as Tad goes to the Letter Factory and see where the Letters are made, and goes from room to room, visiting each letter and learning what sound they make, followed by a song the brings it all together. My daughter loved this video immediately and wanted to watch it every morning and learned her letters and their sounds within 1-2 weeks. She still makes mistakes sometimes, because sometimes you say b and she thinks you say v...but she's got that hang of it. So by the time I got a chance to read Mommy, Teach Me to Read! she was already familiar with phonetical sounds so we were able to start playing the sound game right away.
The Sound Game is where you say "let's think of words that have the sound 'c'" (not saying the letter c, but making the sound). You provide a few examples "c...c....clock. c...c...cake....counter...." and then let the child try. J first said "BANANA!" and I did as the book instructed, not correcting her...but just saying "hmm....I don't here 'c' in BANANA. I hear 'c' in counter....hmmm....what else....c.....c..." and then she jumped in "COOKIE!" "Wonderful! You're right, there's a 'c' in cookie."
The sound you are looking for doesn't have to be the first sound of the word. "stick" would also be correct....just emphasis the 'c' sound or whatever sound it is you are practicing. Once they understand the sounds, then learning to read words will be much easier.
We've been enjoying this game and the baby actually gets really excited listening to us, he must like the emphasis we are putting on specific sounds, it's so cute he just starts giggling when we do it.
So there you have it, you don't need an expensive preschool or an expensive program. Hopefully this week I'll have time to make the sandpaper letter cards for the next phase in the program. I'm just so excited I found this book! However, the only thing is the Letter Factory teaches only uppercase letters and Babara Curtis only wants them to start out with lower case letters. So I guess you can decide if you think that would confuse your child learning uppercase letters first and then incorporating lower case. So far it's okay, but I'm going to be introducing her to all lower case letters in the next step.
(we also borrowed Leap Frog Learn to Read and it has been great too. Entertaining and educational. J is fascinated with punctuation now and at story time she just wants to point out exclamation points, question marks and comas. She also likes to "read" books just like Tad...she pulls my books off the shelf, moves her finger along the page like she's reading it and says "Once Upon a Time, there were three little pigs who left home to see the world..." she doesn't remember what's next so she just repeats that sentence.)