If your preschooler can hold a pencil or crayon and shows an interest in looking at books, then it's time to introduce him to reading and writing. Most 4-year-olds are capable of learning how to write their names, letters of the alphabet and some numbers. They can also learn to recognize simple words in books and remember them. Help your child embark on his knowledge adventure by teaching all you can at home so he will be prepared for that day when you sadly, but joyfully, send him off to school for the first time.
Teach alphabet naming and recognition. There are many ways to do this. Make flash cards and quiz your child frequently. Get magnetic letters for the refrigerator and ask your child to name them. As you're driving, play "I Spy" with a targeted letter, then see how many times he can spot it on a sign or billboard.
Introduce letter sounds. As your child learns letter names, tell him the sound each one makes. If you aren't confident in your ability to say the sounds correctly, defer to a reputable online site for assistance. Starfall, an early literacy site, will help your child reinforce the skills you teach. Look for interactive games and displays of letters, sounds, words and simple sentences that your child can read as his ability increases.
Write the alphabet in a variety of ways. If your child is already scribbling, then the interest is there — now, just make it fun. Write letters in the sand pile at the playground. Spread whipped cream on the counter top and show him how to write the letters of his name. You may get messy, but if it motivates him, the mess is worth it.
Help your child progress from writing letters to simple words and his first name. At first, the attempts may not resemble what you envisioned. You may see letters written backward or overlapping, but be patient. Keep encouraging him to practice, and don't worry if the letters are not neat or lined up correctly on paper. Your child has plenty of time to work on these technical aspects.
Read to your child frequently. This is the main way that children learn things about books like left-to-right progression of print, how to pause at punctuation and how to use pictures as context clues. When you read to your child, you expose him to new words and he gets to hear a fluent reader. Hopefully, your 4-year-old will imitate you when he begins to read independently.