A has always been a kid who liked to play and who liked to learn while playing. She attended a preschool that encouraged and taught this learn while you play philosophy, but they did teach kids at a comfortable pace, without pushing the kids too much. For the love of reading books, I started seeing signs of her getting impatient when she could not open a book and take it all in, if we were busy to read it to her. So these are some of the things we did, without realizing how much they would help her in being able to read.
How it all started (Phonics) - I don't remember formally teaching her phonics for the consonants. I think somewhere while learning the alphabets, she picked up the sounds of each consonant with the examples that came with each letter in picture books, games, etc. Like B for B-b-b-ball, was probably how she heard it right from the beginning.
For the vowels, I did introduce short vowel sounds to her. I had drawn a chart for her with the letter and the word indicating the sound. And these words she kept as parameters to remember the short vowel sound of each vowel all the time. Oh the fun part, she got to draw pictures of each of these in her chart making it pictorial and fun for her instead of remembering just the sounds.
A - Apple ; E - Elephant ; I - Icecream ; O -Octopus ; U - Umbrella
The game that changed everything - It was 4 winters ago, when we were snowed in on many days and had ran out of all ideas for fun that we came up with this game. The theme in her preschool for that month was Gingerbread Man and she had taken a liking towards the phrase "Run run as fast as you can, you cant catch me I'm the gingerbread man". So for the game, we wrote this phrase on the white board and took turns to change one thing (either change a letter or remove a letter) and made the other person read it. For example, "Run run as fast as you tan, you cant catch me I'm the gingerbread man". The phrase got so hilarious as we went that she could not have enough of it. We played this game for days, and she learnt so much without even realizing it.
Reading and Spelling Together - It just made more sense to make her spell words as she learnt to read. So this we did simultaneously and it helped a great deal. She did not write much then, and a fun way of doing this was Magnetic letters that were permanently put up on our refrigerator. When I was busy cooking, she would sit at the refrigerator, and we would play a game of Can you Spell? The key to playing was that we were both players, so she thought of words and asked me to spell. And when she used k for c and e for i, I always praised her. And later went on to explain how there is a group of people who decide which is the standard way of spelling each word. And though her spelling is one way you can do it, this group of people had decided on this other way.
The Beginner Book Series that gave the Confidence - When most of her friends would read Bob Series, she would never like to read them. It was a tiresome task to make her read it and after a couple of attempts I just gave up thinking she is just not ready for reading. But she would get picture "story" books and point out at words while I read the story to her. I did not understand why she did not do the same with this famous Beginner series. Until we got a new Level 1 Reading book called Dick and Jane from a series, just for fun. That series changed it all. The book aims on teaching reading but has a story in it, and that was the key with A. Also each book has a story with the same repetitive words, so that by the middle of the book, kids are more familiar with those words. Not sure if it was just her, but this series worked for her though many people swear by the Bob Series.
At the end of this, her confidence about reading had gone up so much that there was no looking back. And this was all not premeditated or formally thought process to teach her reading. It wonderfully happened by chance, that we did a few things that worked best for her. I am not even sure if the same set of things will work for Av, as each kid is different. But since I have been asked by a few people, I thought I will put it all in one place for reference. I am sure I will be referring to the same in the future for Av, but whether it worked or not the second time around, I will be sure to update.