My daughter recently turned four. While she enjoys it when I or my wife read to her, it is clear that she is just beginning to gain the skills necessary to read. We've taught her the alphabet and numbers. With a little help, she can even count to sixty. When I read to her a book she knows, she can "read" it pretty well, telling me most of the words. But, when we read a book that she doesn't know so well, it's clear that her skill is memorization, not reading.
Recently, a discussion at work pointed to Starfall.com, an educational reading web site. I sat down with my daughter one day and started on the learn to read section which focuses on letter combinations. She had a lot more trouble than I expected. What I hadn't realized is that she knew the names of the letters, but not the sounds they make. Today, I took a step back to the ABCs section. Perfect! She clearly didn't know the sounds, but quickly picked-up most of them with ease. There are still a number of letter sounds she doesn't know (especially vowels), but she enjoyed the Starfall lessons and games and was even able to do a few entire letter lessons by herself (moving & clicking the mouse) by the end.
I'm glad I found Starfall. Before, I didn't have a clear idea of the steps necessary to take my daughter from following along while I read to reading on her own. Now, the path is much clearer. Also, I'd like to compliment the authors of Starfall on the level of quality they were able to create without relying on ads/sponsorships/etc. Being a software engineer myself, I know how difficult it can be to put together the skills necessary to create the interaction they've created. Thank you!