One of my favorite things to help young children learn to read, in addition to drilling phonics, is helping them make their own books. Of course, I keep the books short to accommodate their short attention spans. Using books they made helps to break up the monotony of rote/drill work, which is very important. We start with books that only contain words with the same sound, for example, the "oo" sound. I find that the "oo" sound is very exciting to start with because one can make words that a child loves. Some "oo" words we start with are "boo", boom, "zoo", "zoom", "moo", moon", and the word " boot". Children latch on to these words and really make a connection to the sounds because these are fun words.
Next, I make another book using two sight words . For example, introduce the words "I like". On each page, write "I like" and add a picture like a dog, a tree, or candy. Once they learn "I like", make a new book with two new sight words, such as, "I see" and the phonetic words they have learned.
Now, you have "I see a moon", "I see a boot", "I like the moon", "I like boots", etc.
Incentive is a must, especially when the newness of learning sounds wears off. One tip for creating incentive is to let them make a card (on an index card) for each new word learned and put it in a box. Write "My Words" on the box, and let them review the words they already know daily and add any new word they learned to the box. When their box starts to get full, they can see their progress, and you can, too.
I hope these help. They have worked beautifully for me.
If you are needing beginning reading activities to add to your phonics program, please check my blog regularly for more outside the box tips!
Have fun teaching!