I tried to start with "A fat cat sat on a fat rat".

Is it all about mugging up or is there a proper technique for learning the spellings of words?

Basically now I realize that the my aim is to teach her to read. I thought teaching her spellings will help.

How should I proceed?

  • 2
    Does she express an independent interest in letters and words, or is it your idea to teach her?
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 16:16
  • She is being taught only alphabet in the school. She is interested in reading what I write in my notebooks, and also what's written on boards, covers of books and pamphlets. @stephie Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 16:21
  • Teaching spelling as a thing seems like an odd way to do it. Usually you would teach reading - via phonics or whatever method - and children pick up spelling from what they read. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 21:36
  • I don't know how to teach reading. Can you guide me? @Daniel Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 2:12
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6 Answers 6


Be careful here: Push too hard and you will get a kid who hates books.

Read to them. Read with them. Initially they will just follow along. They will memorize the book.

Now you can have fun by misreading a word. "That's not what it says" "Oh? What did I say, and what should I say?

Make a game out of it.

When they are ready they will start to read.

You can find a lot of books and materials on teaching your kid to read. But the key is Keep it fun

One of my few childhood memories from that age is sitting in this giant (to me) overstuffed armchair with my dad while he read Winnie the Pooh to me.

I was not an early reader. Mom realized in 3rd grade that I could barely read. Our answer was a weekly trip (Tuesday evening) to the Library where we got a pile of books. Every day after school, I would sit on the white kitchen stool while she made supper and read to her.

When I got stuck, she say, "Spell it out" then "sound it out" If I didn't know what it meant, I'd ask. But she was quick to point out similar words, and root words. In a year I went from grade 3 to grade 8 reading ability.

Added in response to comment:

Spell it out: This was as often as not so she could know what word was giving trouble, all while she was depriving onions of their skins. Then for sound it out, she'd ask me to try to figure out where the syllables broke, and basically keep at it for a while trying to lead me to self discovery.

Root words. Suppose I was reading O'Henry's "Gift of the Magi" But in my school they only talked about the three wise men. Mom would ask me about other words that begin with M a g i. I'd come up with magic and magician, and we'd have a three onion discourse on how magi words tend to be associated with special/unusual knowledge or skills.

Or how biography was the story of someone's life, while biology was the story of life in general, while zoology was the study of animals. I would make the connection between zoology, and 'zoo' where we went to see sealions. And that bio meant life.

geology and geography gave me geo=earth, and later, about age 12 these words would be abstracted to other celestial bodies.

She'd make non-latin connections too, explaining how Wednesday was derived from "Woden's day" from Norse mythology; Thursday came from Thor's day, as was Tuesday and Friday from Tiw and Frigga

I ran across the word 'ken' in a book that had a Scottish setting. It learning that it was similar to 'know' she then asked me what kinfolk would mean. Well, I already knew that folk were people. And figuring that kin and ken were pretty similar, I guessed, "People you know really well" She would then explain the difference, but I'd hit the nail at least obliquely by figuring out that you would know people you were related to better than you would know most strangers.

Suffix words.

And I would connect that -ogy was study of. That 'graph' as a part of a word meant some form of writing, or more abstractly, recording. Thus typography was the art of fonts, the forms that letters could take in pring. And photography was literally 'writing with light' And that geography was the the autobiography of the Earth.

  • It would be helpful if you would expand in detail on this: "But she was quick to point out similar words, and root words." Basically i want to know how did she teach you to read? Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 3:50
  • What my mom was doing came later. I could read, but not well. If anything I should delete the last two paragraphs as being entertaining but irrelevant. Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 13:24

I'll outline what I can remember of how my mother taught me to read (I was reading novels at 5yo, so it seemed to work well). If anyone knows if this is a "process" that has a name (and thus the OP can find a better description of it than mine), please edit it in :)

Start with a phonetic alphabet. So its not "A:Aye", "E:EEEE", "O:oh", its "A:ahh", E:ehh", "O:oooo". You can flash-card these or something. Even through the day, cover up most of a word and just leave one phonetic group showing and ask if they know it/can say it.

Read to your kid. Read to them All. The. Time.

Other people can probably describe flash card usage and the teaching of a phonetic alphabet better. Below is what I remember as the MAIN way that my mother used and what I feel is somewhat unique:

When reading, point out a small word such as "a", "the", etc. (one word at a time) sound it out phonetically: "a" = "ahh" and together with your kid "figure out" what word that is. (obvious in this case, its "a"). "The"="thhh + ehhh" then go through the "sounds like" process again to get to "the". Then for that reading session, that is "their word" to read. You read the book and point at each word as you read it. When you get to the word "a" (or whatever word it is), you stop and keep pointing at it. At first you may need to prompt them ("this is your word, what was it?") but they should get the hang of it and pipe in with "A!".

Once they have one word and can somewhat reliably "read" it when you pause at the word "a", you give them a second one (they read both "a"s & "the"s). Then when they have that one, give them another one. Remember to ALWAYS sound each new word out with them - this is how they will start to figure out new words on their own.

I think this would work with any books, but I do remember that my mum used a specific book called "Ant and Bee" with me.


I have worked several years with children as a teacher, so I'd like to add some advice that I used.

  • I recommend you to read to your child rather than using flashcards. It's perfect to read at least 20 minutes a day.
  • I recommend alphabet books, song books, picture books, and rhyming books for children 4-5 years old.

I also advise asking your child about the text content and its understanding while reading. You can show the text and the whole book, then children consider how any word looks like. Then you can check if the child remembers how some word is written or is sounded.

Also, read different genres of literature and explain these different types of books to kids.

That's the main points I can choose. Hope that will work for you!




You might get a set of magnetic letters and a board to go with them, and spend a few minutes every day (maximum five) moving letters around on the board together. I would not start with a sentence, though. However, your rhyming words (fat, cat, rat, etc.) would be fun to play with. I did this with my children and as long as the child is enjoying it, and you aren't pushing, why not? Once you've got the A and the T set up, you can slide different consonants in front of those, and read the result together.

You might look into some Montessori activities, such as sandpaper letters. (I don't know a lot about that.)

(I'm assuming you read several children's books to her every day.)

You said she is interested in what she sees you writing in your notebooks. This is a great place to start! Give her a notebook like Mama's, and let her choose what she wants to use for "writing" in it -- pen, pencil, crayon. Sometimes let her write isolated letters or sketches or scribbles, play-acting "writing like Mama"; but sometimes also take dictation from her, in HER notebook. When you write what she dictates, write in large, clear print, and read it to her as often as she likes.

You can also make other media available to her, such as an easel with paper on one side and a chalkboard on the other. For variety, let her sometimes draw, write or scribble with different kinds of paint, including finger paint.

As she begins to write, allow her to use "invented spelling." In the early stages, don't correct her spelling. Here is an article that explains invented spelling (also known as inventive spelling) and the various stages of learning to write: http://www.readingrockets.org/article/invented-spelling-and-spelling-development

Four is quite young. Every child is unique. Some children are ready to read and write at four, but most aren't. Please don't be disappointed if she's not ready to start writing yet. Even if she isn't, you can be pleased that she is interested. If you make sure that her experiences related to reading and writing are pleasurable and stress-free, that will be a strong foundation for future intellectual accomplishments!

Another thing you can do with a pre-reader is math, including geometry -- for example, a four-year-old can already be having fun figuring out which shapes are symmetrical. You can even explore different kinds of symmetry. Also, you can start skip-counting now -- counting by two's, three's, five's and ten's now, as part of your games and activities. And you can start playing simple card and board games now.

A beginning reader often makes best progress with repeated reading of a short homemade book that is about her and her family and pet if she has one. This is something a parent can offer that a school generally doesn't.

  • Regarding age - I can double aparente001's statement regarding different ages for different kids. Our eldest was speaking and writing italian, portuguese and english by four. her middle sisters managed to write and read portuguese by 5, and her younger brother is still struggling to understand the concept of "putting letters together makes a sound" by the same age.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 10:40

Even before you actually teach reading, kids can identify some words because their mind store it as a picture. For example, they can read words like 'McDonalds' or 'Walmart' or any of your local stores because you go there often and they can recognize the image of the word rather than the actual written text. They can even identify the same words when you write it down at home as a text on a paper. This is how many kids can read 'Sight words' from flash cards even before they learn individual alphabets.

You write the words and read it out and the kids learn the word (stored as an image) and then after they learn many such words, they move on to alphabets. That's one way of teaching (sight words and then alphabets). There are many games that you can try with flashcards (with words). Hide them and go for a treasure hunt - Something like mama wants a 'Cat', pick it out for me. Some kids enjoy learning this way. I tried this approach for my kid but she wasn't too keen on flashcards at that age so I had to go with the traditional approach.

I started with the regular alphabets (Capital/small) and the alphabet song and once she could identify all of the alphabets, we went on to different sounds that each alphabet can make (phonics) with examples of 3 letter words. She could then guess the pronunciation of similar words and I would correct her as needed. I also used to make power point slides with flying alphabets which form a random word and she had to guess what it was. It was a fun activity and we stopped as soon as she got bored. Once her vocabulary improved, we moved on to books (with huge text and pictures) and read them together.

  1. Read to her all the time. At least an hour a day if possible. Make sure you include a few alphabet books (Dr. Seuss is my favorite).
  2. Get a game like scrabble or banana grams and let her play with the letters.
  3. Write words she is interested in - all caps! These will probably be her own name and the names/words for other family members at first, and then might be animals etc
  4. Sing the alphabet song with her a LOT.
  5. When she asks questions about letters, answer them. Try to relate the letters to things she cares about (“L is for lion, and also for Lucy - that’s mama’s name!”)
  6. When she’s doing a good job recognizing letters, take her for walks and point out letters on the signs that you see. Again stick with all caps and simple scripts. She will probably ask you to read the signs - do so! If she’s doing very well, you might ask her to tell you what the letters are first, or even to tell you the sound of the first letter.
  7. Find engaging books with a few simple words in all caps for her to read. That way you read the story to her, but every once in a while there will be a word for her, like “STOP.” My favorite for this is “Sam and the firefly.”
  8. Get the game “what’s gnu,” which is a 3-letter-word spelling game, and play it with her.
  9. Get an alphabet book for lower case letters and start reading her that one.
  10. Have her practice drawing capital letters. If drawing is hard for her, start by using objects to make letters (like if I put two pencils together this way, it makes “T” but if I do it this way, it makes “L”)
  11. Vowels are tricky - when you’re explaining vowels, do something like “A-‘æ’-Apple” “E-‘eh’-elephant” so she has those words available to connect the sounds to.
  12. By now, you should be able to walk her all the way through some simple words by having her first tell you the letters, then the sound of each letter, then stringing the sounds together. Eg: “B A T. Bh, æ, t. Bat.” Voilá! Reading. Then just keep practicing.

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