Welcome to part 4 of the Learning to Read Series!
Play Letter and Phonemic Awareness Games Often~
Children are developing pre-reading skills all throughout the early years of their lives. Frequent and fun exposure to books isn’t the only way to get kids ready to read. You can also help them develop pre-reading skills by immersing them in fun games and activities centered around phonemic awareness and phonics. Some activities are hands on, and others are oral and can be played while making dinner or driving in the car!
It’s always important to have some hands-on games or activities that your child can easily access around the house. This can help them learn to identify the letters of the alphabet and develop phonics skills (letter sounds). I think our first purchase was a wooden letter puzzle. Lucy would play with that thing nonstop growing up, and it was so easy to do together. I can remember sitting on the floor with her talking about the letters as we worked on the puzzle, or watching her enjoy it with other family members. It was one of her favorite toys! Now that Theo is showing an interest in the letter puzzle, I do the same thing with him. He gets the added benefit of also having a big sister to play letter games with too!
We also have other similar letter toys around the house, like the felt letters I made (see my past post on making felt letters) and a giant, letter floor puzzle. The kids have also enjoyed the magnetic Fridge Phonics (be sure to get a set of lowercase letters for this.)
When you are not home, you can also play games while you’re in the car or store.
- Look for different letters on signs and buildings while you’re driving or around a store.
- Play “I-Spy”, but instead of using colors, use letter sounds. For example~ “I spy something that starts with the /b/ sound.
- Lucy loved looking at street signs! Talk to your child about what they notice about the signs- you may be surprised! I remember Lucy pointing out how she saw 3 signs in a row that all started with ‘b’. She was so excited! She also loved learning about stop signs, yield signs etc. I think environmental print really played a big part in Lucy learning to read.
There are also many phonemic awareness activities you can do throughout the day to build your child’s pre-reading skills. (Phonemic awareness is not the same as phonics~ it’s being aware that spoken words are made up of individual sounds~phonemes. Phonemic awareness is verbal and auditory, not written, and prepares children for reading print.)
- Rhyming-Brainstorm words that rhyme. Singing lots of songs with rhyming words and reading books and poems with rhymes will help kids start to hear rhymes.
- Beginning Sound– Think of words that start with a certain sound. A game I’d play with Lucy might go like this- “Hey! I just thought of something! (Yes, I would really play it out like it was one of the most exciting thoughts that had crossed my mind that day). That banana you are eating starts with the /b/ sound. (I’m not saying the letter ‘bee’, just it’s sound). I have a fun idea! Let’s walk around the house and look for other things that start with /b/” (again, saying the sound, not naming the letter.)
- Ending Sound– Once your child is comfortable isolating the beginning sound, you can do the same types of games with the ending sounds in words. “Let’s play a guessing game! I’m going to say a word and you tell me what sound it ends with.” This takes a lot of modeling, practice, and patience!
- Blending– Blending is putting sounds together- a very important skill in reading! Again, we would just play verbal word games to practice this. “Lucy, can you guess what word I’m saying- /b/ /oo/ /k/ ?” (Say each sound separately). “Book!” She always loved this game (maybe I sold it really well with my overly dramatic excitement!)
- Segmenting- Segmenting is just the opposite of blending- pulling the sounds apart. You might say a word like ‘cat’ and have your child break it into /c/ /a//t/. This skill can be quite tricky, Lucy is still working on it at age 4!
The best part~ all phonemic awareness activities can be done anywhere (even the car), no supplies needed!
Phonemic awareness is one of the most important skills you can help your child develop, and it takes a lot of time so be patient and make it fun! It’s not something you do for just a day or a week, but months and years. Lucy started rhyming games at age 2, and we practiced for many many months. It took quite a while for rhyming to click with her. Beginning sounds we worked on most of her 2nd year, and mostly started the other phonemic awareness skills when she was 3 (and still work on them today at age 4.)
Follow your child’s lead~ if they seem disinterested when doing it, don’t push. The last thing you want to do is turn your child off to reading. Offer the oral games up at different times and gauge your child’s reaction. There are many great resources online to help you learn more. I like how this website explains phonemic awareness. Also, this website has some great suggestions on ways to work on each phonemics awareness skill with your child. If you are interested in going more in depth into phonics, here is a good resource.
See you soon for the 5th and final Learning to Read series post!
Special thanks to my former teaching colleague, now one of the best friends I could have (hoop member)~Di~ for proofing this for me. I miss you!
More from the Learning to Read Series:
Part 1- Making Books Accessible
Part 3- Following Your Child’s Lead
Part 5- Maintaining an Interest in Books