I have two children, ages 1 and 3, and they both love to learn letters and their sounds. They enjoy sounding out letters and words. My three year old uses the Sesame Street practice of sounding out each letter in a word, saying the sounds faster and faster. The great part is they love doing it. It’s not something we have to force them to do. They ask us almost every day if they can learn letters. To them it’s a game.
What’s the secret? Starfall.com.
I’ve searched high and low for entertaining web sites that help children learn how to read. I haven’t found anything that comes close to Starfall. The main thing we use it for now is to teach our kids the letters of the alphabet, but our 3 year old also enjoys other parts of the web site. He likes the stories and the seasonal activities where you decorate a snowman, pumpkin or gingerbread man. Another benefit is that he can use the site all by himself. He pleads with us to let him do letters. Even though it’s effective, we still moderate the time he spends, but is he loves it. We tried flash cards and he usually either didn’t want to do them at all or would get bored after a few minutes.
There are some areas for improvement on the site. It would be nice if there was an option to have the stories read out loud. Since he can’t read yet he just looks at the pictures and enjoys them, but having them read would be even better.
The site is completely free, unlike several other learning to read web sites that aren’t as entertaining or effective. We’ve been using it for several months now and they still love using the site. There are enough activities to do on the site that they have yet to become bored with it. It’s entertaining enough that even I don’t mind doing letters over again.
If you have children that are anywhere along the process of learning to read, check out the site. You won’t be disappointed.