Let me start by saying, my 3 year old is not reading yet. We have been working on phonics for about two weeks and she is showing a lot of progress, but she is certainly not a reader yet. For my second disclaimer, let me say that, while I have an advanced degree, it is not in education. I have no teaching experience and no formal education in early childhood development. I’m just a mom who wants my kid to be an early reader.
I started out trying to teach her the alphabet by memorizing the names of the letters. This did not work. She was not interested. I switched to phonics instead. We have magnetized letters on a cookie sheet and we use those every day for “Letter Time.” Elle likes letter time usually, but if she is resistant I make her do it anyway. You may think this is mean; I think this builds discipline and most people I come across could use a little more discipline. I say things like, “Before you have your yogurt, we have to have Letter Time.” She loves yogurt, so this works. She always ends up having fun at Letter Time because I praise her enthusiastically and make her feel proud of her accomplishments. It’s a positive experience for her.
I incorporate learning the alphabet into daily life. For example, the other morning I was making oatmeal and I showed her the O for O, O, Oatmeal. We always say the sound with the letter. I find that using people’s names works very well. Like, “This is a G for GiGi.” (GiGi is what she calls one of her grandmothers.) This is how I introduce letters.
After I introduce the letter to her, we practice it at Letter Time. I say, “Elle, do you remember which letter makes the O,O,Oatmeal sound?” We go through all the letters she has learned so far and add one or two new ones each day. Sometimes we have to go back and review. She gets B and D mixed up, but overall she is learning quickly.
I know it is making sense to her because the other day I asked her if she could find the letter that makes the sound C like C, C, Cake and she picked out the C. Associating the sound with the letter is really clicking for her. Once she’s got the alphabet down, we will start sounding out short words like cat, bat and hat.
I will leave you with a little advice. I have a horse that I’m training to jump and I’ve learned that if I keep our work sessions short, my horse is in a good mood the whole time and our ride is productive. I’ve also learned to always end on a positive note so that my horse has a positive association with working. The same works with my daughter. I keep it short and, if she gets frustrated, I ask her a question I know she knows the answer to so that she can build her confidence. It’s very important to make learning fun!