The best way to teach basic, pre-reading skills is while reading to your child.
Here's a video demonstration of how to sneak "teachy-learny" moments into storytime with your child, and make read-aloud time fun!
This is another video, with an even younger child:
Family Education's Raising Ready Readers page is full of ideas for parents.
Reading is Fundamental also has tons of lists and tips for parents.
Two of the most basic reading skills are knowing that
1) words are separated by spaces and can be used to build sentences, and
2) sentences are read from left to right.
You don’t have to teach this explicitly; when you read simple books with only a sentence on each page, just point your finger under each word as you say it aloud, reading at a normal pace. (This becomes very tedious and makes your reading sound silly if you try to do it with long stories, so don’t even try to do it all the time!)
**NOTE** Make sure your finger “jumps” from word to word rather than sliding across the page, so your child starts to learn that each word is separate, just like in speech.
Think-Alouds and Asking Questions
Teachers use “think-alouds” to teach kids what and how to think while they read. As you read aloud, just pause occasionally and voice your thoughts:
“Hey, David is throwing his food just like your little sister does sometimes!”
“Ooh, I can tell Fancy Nancy is really upset. Her face looks so sad.”
“I wonder where that lost puppy could be hiding?”
“This part reminds me of that time when…”
Occasionally, stop to ask a question like:
· How do you think [character] is feeling right now?
· What do you think is about to happen?
· What would YOU do if you were [character]?
Doing this constantly is annoying; doing it every once in a while can teach your child how to think critically, use his/her imagination, and better understand what s/he reads!