The best thing you can do is read aloud to your child. Make it fun! Here are a couple of ideas. There is a great book by Mem Fox, a famous children's author, called Reading Magic. It explains the importance of reading aloud to young children and how to do it. Most public libraries have this book on their shelves.
Read every day to your child. You might start off with one book and build to two or three books.
Pick a special time and place. Make it comfortable. Child like routine so make it the same time every day - before or after dinner, right before bed, after lunch. No one time is better than another.
It's Ok to read the same book over and over again. Young children like to hear the same stories many times - even if you are sick of it. Each time you read it though, read it like it was the first time.
Embrace nonfiction. Most children want to know how things work or are made. Follow their interests.
Read different genres. Mysteries, realistic fiction, humorous, science fiction, etc. As you are reading the book tell your child what type of book it is.
Point out concepts of print. This means the cover, author, illustrator, reading left to right, turning pages, etc. This is one of the first steps to learning the reading process.
Talk about the books you've read together. Compare characters, plots, settings, problems from one story to another, make connections between the books and your child's life, and discuss the lessons learned with each story.
Hope these ideas will sparks other ideas as you develop your child's reading habit!
We created cards (the giant index ones) with words and pictures on them and acted out what they did...so puppy we would wag our 'tails' and go arf arf while showing our child the word. From there we labeled everything and made games out of finding the right words in a pile of words
At this wonderful age, introduce letters and sounds through play. Try the letters in his name first. Writing comes much easier during the four year old time. You may take the giant letter cards suggested in the last post and place them on the matching piece of furniture in your house or on the matching toy: R for refrigerator and R for Richard just like you! Enjoy the alphabet songs and Apps now available for young children. Exposure to learning but no pressure please!
I've taught preschool for 12 years, and taught 1st grade for 6 years before that, and absolutely agree with Lynellen. One of the most important things for 3 year olds to learn, is that they can enjoy learning, it's fun. The most important letters to your child will be the ones in her name, so start with her first initial, and then add in her other letters. My mother taught me to recognize "P for Paula" on cereal boxes, you can do the same for your child. Enjoy books together every day, just holding your child in your lap and reading aloud will teach her a lot: you read the words, but the pictures also tell the story, print and pages go from left to right, the title and author are on the cover, stories make sense, and reading is fun. You can point out your child's first initial letter, or challenge her to find it on the page. Look for letters on signs around you - most children quickly learn M for McDonald's, or other favorite destinations. Play the alphabet game when you are walking or driving, looking for each letter of the alphabet in order. Let your child see you reading. Attend library story times. Notice words that start with the same sound as your child's name, help her make the connection between the sound and the letter. Many children enjoy writing their letters in a tray of flour, rice or salt, or even syrup or honey. Make letters with your bodies: try standing like a T or making a C with your arms. Notice the sticks in your yard that are shaped like a y or l. Write in the dirt or the sand box with your fingers. Notice that a donut looks like an o, and so does your mouth when you say "O".
While none of these activities looks quite like reading, they are all important steps in the right direction. When your child learned to walk, she moved from laying prone, to sitting independently, to rocking on her hands and knees, to cruising on furniture to walking. Reading is a lot like that, it moves through many early stages that help your child develop the skills she'll need to eventually become a fluent reader. Playing with letters and sounds now will prepare her. Enjoy some snuggle time with a good children's book, and know that you ARE teaching her to read, at an appropriate developmental level for a 3 year old.
We started with learning letters, uppercase and then lowercase. Once she could read and write all of her letters we learned 3-letter word groups, like -AT words (cat, hat, bat, etc.), then -AR words (car, far, star, etc), and we did those for several weeks, always finding ways to point them out in the world around us, writing with chalk, playing hopscotch with our words, writing them in sand, etc. After about 4 months we moved on to blending sounds like SH-, CH-, TH-, and OO-. She is not yet 4 and can read very well, especially rhyming books that include those favorite word groups. It definitely helped with her spelling once she learned how to sound out letter combinations.
You have some wonderful answers below. I would also add that READING to your child every day if you can and having a bunch of fun together reading is another very important way to begin learning to read. If you have them place their fingers or you place your fingers under the words you are reading they will end up learning many sightwords. Sounding out words together also helps them in the learning process with reading. My child was one of the few who could already ready books (at a first grade level +) the first week of Kindergarten. His teacher was amazed how well he already read. ENJOY This time with your child. It is a beautiful experience worth every minute! Blessings