Counted cross stitch is easy to learn! It's just what it sounds like, you are making little crosses on an evenweave or linen fabric. To work the design, you follow a chart made up of symbols. Each symbol represents a color of embroidery floss.
To begin, work a narrow hem or overlock stitch around your fabric to prevent fraying of the edges. Fold the fabric in half, then half again, finger press lightly. Run a basting stitch along each fold line to mark the center of the fabric. (These will be removed when stitching is finished.)
The fabric you use for any design should always be at least 2" longer on all sides beyond the design area. This helps hold the fabric in the hoop or q-snap when you are stitching, and also allows you to stretch the piece for finishing.
A cross stitch has two parts and can be worked in two ways – a complete stitch can be worked, or a number of half stitches may be stitched in one line and then completed on the return journey. Your cross stitch may face either direction but the most important rule is that all the top stitches should face the same direction!
Each square on a chart, both occupied and unoccupied, represents two threads of linen unless otherwise stated. Each occupied square equals one stitch unless otherwise stated.
Traditionally, stitchers begin to stitch from the middle of the fabric to ensure the design is centered when finished. You may also count up from the center to the topmost left and begin stitching there.
Alicia Paulson has a great cross stitch tutorial page, found here.
Here a quick video on starting the basic cross stitch.
DMC's how to read a cross stitch design.
Peacock & Fig has a terrific beginners cross stitch tutorial.