Teach Your Four Year Old How To Read Using My Secret Recipe

by Queenie on July 8, 2010

Image of QueenieLast week I had the opportunity to spend five delicious days with my four-year old niece. She came from San Diego to L.A, to participate in my annual summer camp called Camp N’Vision.

She is a precocious little something with a lot of spunk and pizzazz.

She is as dainty as a cupcake overflowing with lots of love and compassion.

Just thinking about her smile fills me with light all over.

As we settled in, I noticed that she brought her backpack and that it was filled with a few of her favorite books. I asked her if she wanted to learn how to read and she responded with the confidence  of a ten year old, “I already know how to read.” I chuckled to myself, understanding that she knows how to read the pictures. I reworded my question, this time making sure not to insult her intelligence. I asked, “Are you ready to learn how to read lots of the words?”

She looked at me sort of confused because in her mind she is “reading.” I asked her again, if she wanted me to teach her how to read some more words? Her eyes lit up and she gave me a resounding “yes”

So I went into my office and whipped up a formula just for her. Below is my recipe. Its not a secret like Bushes Baked Beans, so I am asking you to share it and spread the word like the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Seriously, try it, it works and let me know what you think.

  1. Identify a word that your child would like to learn, example: AND
  2. Write the word AND on a 3 x 5 note card in marker and hold the word in front of your child and say each letter out loud A-N-D. Then say the word AND. Have your child repeat after you. Do this step twice.
  3. Have your child take a picture of the word. Have them pretend to take a picture of the word motioning with their hands
  4. Tell your child to imagine in their mind that the air is paper. Have your child write the word in the air A-N-D
  5. Next, take the 3×5 card and hold it in the back of their head. Ask them to tell you how to spell AND. Tell them to draw the word in the air for support as they are dictating to you the word. Move the card to their right ear. Now, ask them what is the last letter in AND, continue to ask what is the first letter in AND. Move the card to the left ear, ask them to spell AND out loud, again have them write in the air to help them remember.
  6. Put the 3×5 card down. Ask your child to write the word in the air.
  7. This time ask them to imagine that they are erasing the second letter. Ask what letters are left A-D, put the N back. This time erase the first letter, what letters are left N-D. you can continue this erasing letters and asking what’s left
  8. Tell your child they are going to go on a WORD HUNT!
  9. Open the book, have your child see if they can find the word AND on the page. Keep going. The goal is not to read all the words on the page but for them to read the word AND anytime that they can find it. This is a great time to teach tracking from left to right. Show them how to start at the beginning of the sentence to the end searching for the word.)
  10. As you add more words such as THE, ME, I, SAID, IT, WAS- start making silly sentences out of the 3×5 cards after the word hunt game. Have them organize the cards in any fashion and read the silly sentence out loud, example: SAID WAS IT ME AND. It doesn’t make sense grammatically, but the goal is to read the words not make sense.

And just like that your child will start to read the word AND each and every time they see it.

This is a powerful strategy because you are using all of their nuero-pathways in introducing the new word. This strategy utilizes a multi-sensory approach, emphasizing the use of the right side of the brain.

If your child is really young like my niece I wouldn’t recommend giving them sounds to assign to the letters. Why you might ask? Sounds will confuse them, especially when the letter /a/ has about 5 different sounds attributed to it, but after they build a bank of 75 of these words, by the time that they are six or seven, adding the sounds will make more sense because not only do they have a reportoire of words that they know how to read, but that they also know how to spell.

Queenie Lindsey is an academic coach and educational consultant. She is the founder of Tandem Teaching and Distinguished Learning Group, an academic coaching firm. Follow her on Twitter.


Queenie July 8, 2010 at 1:08 am

My niece was pure joy, in the five days that she was here we learned AND, IS and THE she was just about ready to work on IT. I cant wait to hear your testimonies of how this strategy worked for you!
.-= Queenie´s last blog ..Teach Your Four Year Old How To Read Using My Secret Recipe =-.

Melissa July 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

I watched that cutie-pie in action, and it was such a delight to see the utter joy she showed as the recipe continued to work its magic. I’m looking forward to cooking up a storm with my cousin’s kiddos at the family reunion this weekend! Will keep you posted on how it works with Angie’s little ones. GREAT post, Queenie. And I can’t express in words how amazing your neice is. She was such a delight to work with all week (and so were you!).

jane smith July 8, 2010 at 11:38 am
Queenie July 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Jane thanks for the link. I definitely agree, Its not okay to “force” a child to read. I’ve taught in a classroom for a while teaching little ones. Some have come in reading at 4th grade while others have no interest in learning how to read, until the spring. I strongly believe that if a child is ready, curious and asking questions about words, I would say that it is time to give them what they are asking for.
Thanks a bunch
.-= Queenie´s last blog ..Teach Your Four Year Old How To Read Using My Secret Recipe =-.

Megan July 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I am ready to kidnap this adorable creature based off of yours and Melissa’s description of her. Liss told me a new cute thing she said everyday after Camp.

I definitely am creeped out by the “Your baby can read!” DVDs flooding infomercials but it seems like your niece was desperate to be part of that Lifelong Fraternal Order – the Secret Reading Society. This seems like a terrific and fun strategy to give a kid what they thirst for.
Megan´s last blog post ..Let Them Swing