I have been frequently asked, both by the readers of this blog, and from mothers of Puttachi's friends, about how Puttachi learned to read and write words so quickly.
Since I am no expert, I'll just outline our journey together.
Before that, I must say that I believe that language and word skills, just like any other ability, differs from person to person. Perhaps Puttachi has that ability, in addition to interest, of course. Though I don't know what influenced her to get interested in reading, I will list what I think might have helped.
1) I am frequently found with a book in my hand. A child is naturally curious about anything the parent does, so Puttachi used to come and peek into my book very often, even as a young child. I guess that at some point, they make the connection that these marks mean something that is obviously very interesting, and that probably induces them to try and find out what it is all about.
2) Once she learned to recognize the alphabet, she would find them everywhere. Sometimes, she held carrot sticks at different angles and showed me T and Y - so obviously, letters fascinated her. You could also, if you wish, point out letters in unexpected places - such things excite little children.
3) At about 2 or 3 years of age, Puttachi did not know English, and so when I told her a story from an English book, I kept it open for her to look at the pictures, and told her the story in Kannada. But sometimes, I would point out a word to her, a word that was exciting in the story. If the story had, '"Help!" said the lion,'" and if "Help" was in bold and a bigger font, I would show it to her, and say, "Look, here is where the Lion is shouting "Help!" Then she would naturally want to read out the alphabets in the word Help, and then I would follow that up saying, "Huh-Eh-Ll-Puh - Help."
She must have then made the connection, that each alphabet has a sound. And once this concept enters a child's head, the rest is very simple.
I did this quite a few times - but please note, I didn't do this in a calculated way or as a "I MUST teach her," way. I just made use of any opportunity that came by to point out certain words to her.
Once she got this concept, she would split words into phonic sounds, in a very exaggerated way, sometimes wrong too, but she did it, mostly to amuse herself. But that was the basis of learning to spell.
4) It was at this point that I played word building with her - check out the last incident in this post
-- I think all these little things help put the pieces of jigsaw in the head together - and suddenly - ping! Everything falls into place.
Once she connected all the alphabets to their sounds, the rest was easy. She learned to spell very soon after she learned to read.
For a child who's learning to read, there are many, many sites that have Reading Games. Here's one
that Puttachi played with for a while. It is simple enough for children to work on their own (do supervise, though,) and gives them a chance to explore their newly learned skills. It's exciting since it is interactive. But please beware - too much of it is bad. Control, control.
5) One thing that a couple of people have asked me is - "Okay, fine, my child knows the phonic sounds and strings the sounds together - she strings the first half of the word, pauses, and goes on to the second half. But by the time she strings together the second half of the word, she would have forgotten the first half - what to do?"
My answer - Patience. It will come. Puttachi did that too, and as adults, it is totally incomprehensible to us - how can they forget something that they just said five seconds ago? But remember, that little head is trying to juggle so many bits of information, trying to use a new skill and concentrating so hard! Just give him a little more time and he'll do it himself.
One more thing. If you are actively trying to teach your child the letters, or to read - or anything for that matter, let the child take the lead. If she wants to explore further, then do it. If he displays disinterestedness, stop immediately. Don't push, not even a little bit. The child will usually come back himself once he is ready, because they really love to learn new things.
But again, please remember that every child has its own pace, and please do not panic if one child has learned something early and yours hasn't.
If you have tips or suggestions about what worked with your child, do leave them in the comments. Any more questions? I'll try and answer those too.