My 4-year-old knows all the letters and their sounds. What is next step to learning to read?

Congratulations on making a great start on this foundational academic skill! Reading is the gateway to learning and will help your child in many aspects of life. Children learn to read at different ages and some are not ready to make the leap from letter recognition to reading independently until 6 or 7. If your child is ready to read, there are a number of ways to build this exciting new skill. Experts used to argue about phonics versus whole language approaches to learning to read but the good news is you do not have to choose. You can continue to help your child sound out words that follow the phonics rules he already knows while building his recognition of words in context. Since your child already knows his letters and their sounds, help him start to recognize beginning and end sounds of words. For example, search the house for objects that begin with a "B" sound. Play rhyming games and read rhyming stories. You can also practice recognition of site words by keeping a growing list of common sight words, like "the" and "and." Use these sight words in memory-style matching games. Mix phonics texts with a limited number of words that a child can sound out with more complex texts that you will still read to your child. As you read, point to the words on the page and encourage your child to do the same. However you approach learning to read, make sure to keep the activities fun and pressure-free. The age at which a child learns to read will matter less than the amount of enjoyment he gets from reading.

Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.