I think if you are reading to your child you have already started! Listening and watching, even the simplest of books begins our children associating words with symbols and pictures and isn't that really what reading is?
To answer with a strict "age" and some personal experience, my stay-at-home mom worked with me on basic math and reading when I was 2. When I was in preschool, I was the only student in my class able to read. I then went on to our elementary school's "Gifted and Talented" program, and was always in advanced classes of reading and math. I skipped 1st grade because most of the basic skills they would start working on, I was already competent in.
With all of those factors in mind, my answer from personal experience is "as soon as possible!". Not everyone has the luxury to be a stay-at-home parent, but any opportunity you get, try to work with children on learning skills. It will give them a leg up, and can get them interested in different topics.
Never too soon to start. I read my 9-month-old a bedtime story every night. She'll start chiming in when she's ready.
Day one, which can be even be before birth. It has been proven that some prenatal habits influence the fetus as strongly as postnatal habits influence the child.
I agree with others who have answered that it is never too early to begin to teach your children to read. Learning to read begins with a love of books and that is instilled in a child when a parent and other adults read to the child. Read books about things the child enjoys, animals, bugs, rhyming words, silly words, etc. When the child sits beside you and sees the book enough, they can begin to pick up on some of the words. My kids always liked to pretend they were reading by sitting with a book and making up words they thought were on the pages. There are also great websites that help kids learn to read by playing games. Starfall is one (I wrote a hub on this). I love this website and started my daughter on it when she was 2. The stories are so colorful and the website animates them. She loved to sit and watch the stories. She learned very quickly with this site how to sound out words. Now in Kindergarten she is reading Magic Tree House books which I think is 2nd and 3rd grade level and she loves it.
Let me state here though that I never pushed her to read. I just gave her these opportunities and she took off with them. I never "made" her do any of these things until she was ready and seemed to enjoy them. (My older kids too). All of them love books. Just this Easter their grandmother gave them gift cards to Barnes and Noble and they were disappointed that we couldn't get there on Easter day. I love that they enjoy books!!!
I always read to my son when I was pregnant with my daughter It might of helped her it may not I don't think their has been any studies to prove that it is never to early to read to your kids. If they like a book they will repeat the words when you read to them.
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