Pushing our children to read before they are developmentally ready is one of the biggest mistakes that we can make. Instead of being a cherished bonding experience, it will likely become an exercise full of frustration for both the mother and the child. Instead of creating a love of reading, it will produce an atmosphere that results in negative thoughts and feelings towards reading, which will be very hard to undo in subsequent years. Instead of learning efficiently in the least amount of time, our efforts will be very unproductive, and we will waste valuable time that would be better spent elsewhere.
If we will only wait for the right time, our children will make great strides each day as they learn to read in an accelerated manner that generates enthusiasm, confidence, and a well deserved sense of accomplishment.
I have successfully taught our six eldest children to read and I am here to tell you, dear mother, that there is absolutely no advantage to starting your child early, or to push reading in the preschool years. What would take you hours and hours of work and frustration for both you and your child, could be accomplished in a fraction of the time, and much more pleasantly, a few years later. Much of reading is based on readiness, which is developmental, and reached by children at different ages. Pushing when the child is not ready will only cause tears and damage to your relationship.
If a child enjoys reading lessons, and wants to do them, by all means go ahead! But always keep them short and enjoyable, with lots of hugs and laughter. If you begin, and find that after several lessons, it is only causing frustration for you both, then please put the curriculum away and try again later. For several children I had to do this. I put the book away for a good 6 months, then got it out again. You may even have to put it away for an additional 6 months or more, if they are still not ready. I never regretted doing this; once ready, they learned in much less time, and with much more enjoyment!
Only two of our six current readers were ready to learn to read prior to age five. Even for the two who were early readers, there was still a clear point in time around age six or seven where it suddenly became easier, and their ability to read grew in an accelerated fashion.
Studies have shown that by age 11, late readers have caught up, and perform at the same level as, early readers. So relax, and enjoy time with your dear children! Talk to them, laugh with them, sing with them, and smile at them! Take a walk in the park, and enjoy God's marvelous creation together! Bring a nature notebook , and have your child draw what he sees. Get lots of interesting books from the library and read, read, read to him! That will develop a love for books and reading in your child, and cause him to be motivated to learn how to read. It also teaches him about the world, and gives him a good vocabulary, so that he will know what he is reading when he does start reading.
The preschool years are for establishing your parent-child bond, growing in love and respect for each other, and for showing your child God's love, so that when the formal lessons start, you have a great foundation to build upon.
All parents must honestly ask themselves, "Why am I in such a hurry to get my child to read?" You may be susceptible to the admiration or criticism of family and friends. You may feel a need to prove that your choice to homeschool was a wise one. This is an understandable temptation, however, you need to remember that you are working for the glory of God alone, and not your own.
Two great books I highly recommend are The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore, great homeschool pioneers, and A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. Oh, and I mustn't forget my favorite book on teaching reading: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. This one book is all you need to teach your child how to read, and can be done in only 10-20 minutes a day. And the best part is that it is best done while cuddling on the couch together, or on the porch swing, or while lying on a blanket in the yard. :)
So read, talk, laugh, smile, and enjoy your precious gifts from God!