Read to your child every night for 20 minutes.
Young children enjoy reading their favorite story over and over again. Many times they are able to track or follow along with the printed word, so you might even slide your index finger along words as you read the story.
Start introducing the alphabet to your child with both upper and lower case letters. Start with the letters of the alphabet that have lower case letters that appear similar in shape as the upper case letters (For example, "c", "o", "s", "u", "v", "w"). Once your child has mastered recognizing about four letters, then slowly add two more letters to the mix until all letters of the alphabet are mastered.
As your child learns to recognize the letters, also introduce the sounds of the letters by identifying familiar objects or persons that have the beginning sound as the letter you are teaching (For example, say "m" "mama"/"mom"; "c" "cat; "b" "ball"; "p" "penny").
Take old magazines and have your child identify objects that begin with a certain letter ("c" "car"; "t" "truck"). Cut out the pictures and start an alphabet book.
You can also label common objects in your home with 3 x 5 cards (For example, "door", "bed"). Have your child look at the word and then identify the object.
Rhyming books, songs, and games are ways your child will hear and start to understand the sounds in words, which is an important first step in learning to read.
Once your child seems to understand the concept of verbal rhyming, then start introducing "word families" in written format. For example, the "at" family has many rhyming words--"pat", "cat", "hat", "mat", "bat"; or the "ad" family has "sad", "had", "pad", "mad", and "bad".
If your child catches on to the word families, then start introducing words with different endings (for example, "sad"/"sat"; "bad"/"bat").
Introduce vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u). Explain how short words, have short vowel sounds (for example, "a" "hat"; "e" "bed"; "i" "sit"; "o" "hot"; "u" "cup" all are short vowel sounds).
Start introducing the concept of long vowel sounds once your child understands short vowel sounds. The easy way to remember long vowel sounds is that they say the name of the letter (for example, the long "e" can be found in words like "feet", "week", "seen", "teeth"). Spend a few days on one vowel sound before introducing another vowel sound.
Once your child understands the concept of short and long vowel sounds, then start introducing long vowel sounds when two vowels are together in a word (for example "coat"). An old saying to help your child remember how to pronounce a word with two vowels is, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking". In the word "coat" you hear the long "o" sound, but not the "a" sound.
The silent "e" can be of great frustration for some readers. Remind your child when they see the letter "e" at the end of a word, it will probably be silent like when two vowel sounds are together. The first vowel sound is long and makes the sound of the letter, so the "e" being the second vowel will not be heard (For example, take a short word with a short vowel sound of "i" such as "sit", add an "e" to the end of the word makes "site". The "i" in the word "site" becomes a long vowel sound, with no sound coming from the letter "e"; another example is "cut"/"cute"). If you make flash cards, highlight the silent "e" or write the "e" in a different color than the other letters in the word.
Your child also needs to understand that the letter "y" can sometimes be a vowel. The letter "y" makes a long "i" sound in words like "cry", "by", "dry", "sly", and "fly". The letter "y" can also make a long "e" sound in words like "happy", "easy", and "family".
Two letter words with a vowel at the end of the word is usually a long vowel sound (For example, "no", "hi", "go", "he", "so", and "we").
There are always exceptions to the things taught about vowels. For example, the long "o" can be written as "ow" in "slow", but is not a long vowel sound in the same blend "ow" in "plow". The rule that most two letter words ending in a vowel is usually a long vowel sound such as "go", but the word "to" is not a long "o". Sometimes these exceptions can cause great frustration in your child. Let them know everyone struggles with these exceptions when we all first learn to read.
Unusual spellings can also be found in words. The long "i" can be written as "igh" in words like "night", "sight", "sigh", and "high". The long "u" can be written as "ew" in words such as "flew", "chew", and "crew".
Complexity arises as you introduce consonant sound blends, such as "ph", and "ch". For example, "ch" can make a soft sound such as in the word "church", or a hard sound in the word "school". The combination of "ph" makes an "f" sound like in the word "phone".
If your child ever starts to show frustration or becomes upset due to the inability to recognize a word, then help your child pronounce the word. Point out the structure of the word regarding the consonants and the vowels, so that your child will remember next time he/she is faced with the word. Try to relate new words to words your child has already mastered.
As your child starts learning to read, share the story. You read one page and your child reads the next page. Before you turn the page during an exciting part of the story, ask your child what he/she thinks might happen next to help build comprehension and sustain attention.
Build on vocabulary by asking words that mean the same and words that mean the opposite (antonyms and synonyms).
Most of all, make reading fun. Find books that will spark your child's interests and hold their attention to the story. When you read stories, try to change your voice to indicate the different characters in the story. Make reading a true adventure!