Well this is kind of a frugal tip I guess. Last Spring, I used "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" to teach my four year old how to read. I have several friends who have used it and love it. I paid about $18 for it a couple years ago, but it now sells for $15 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (right now it's about $15 at Barnes & Noble, but regular price is $17.60). I had bought the Hooked on Phonics for Pre-K and didn't like it and it was about $40 I think. And she wouldn't even be reading at the end of it. This is a parent version of the SRA system that is used in a lot of schools. In fact, it's the system that is being used at my oldest's school. And my sister said she remembers it being used when we were kids (but I don't remember). What I love about this book is that it's scripted for you. It even tells you how to correct your child. I had to adapt a little bit for my daughter, but not much. They claim that you can use this with a very bright 3 1/2 year old and any average 4 and 5 year old. And they also claim that lessons only take about 20-30 minutes and at the end they will be reading at a 2nd grade level. For my daughter, at the very beginning, the lessons only took about that long, but as we got further along, the lessons took longer. But I think it had something to do with my daughter. If it was hard she wanted to give up, and she's a very hard child to correct. She's never wrong! ;) And I think they are actually reading on a 2nd grade level when they finish the recommended reading list (not at the end of the lesson book). As "easy" as this book was, it was still very hard. But it was so worth it. My daughter entered Kindergarten this school year and was tested on a first grade reading level (we didn't finish the book list due mostly to our move). So it worked. What I love best about this system is that it teaches your child to sound out words. My daughter will see a word she has never seen before and as long as it follows all the "rules" she can sound it out! I'm amazed by this book and that I was actually able to teach my daughter to read. I'm a horrible teacher, so if I can do it, you can do it!
Don't forget: You can get the book for free if you search the web through SwagBucks or rate websites through iRazoo (by collecting "bucks" or points to exchange for Amazon gift cards).
Other teaching tools I recommend (but is not necessary for learning to read with this book):
Baby Einstein Alphabooks
My oldest learned her letters just after she turned 2 using these (she didn't even know the alphabet song yet)Amazon ($12.95) & Barnes & Noble ($11.99 and it's on sale right now)
If you order through Barnes & Noble you can get a 4% rebate by ordering through Mr. Rebates or 8% through Shop at Home
Leap Frog Letter Factory
My oldest watched this for two weeks straight and learned her letter sounds, but you may have to correct a few. Like for R. They teach "eerr" and not "rrrr).
The one pictured is the one I used, but it looks like they have a newer version. Maybe they corrected a few of their sounds. ???
(This is strictly my opinion. I was not compensated by any of these companies, nor have I recieved free products from them.)
Have you used any of these products? How did you like them?