Research shows that letter recognition is a very important early literacy skill. Boosting your child’s letter recognition and phonological awareness could be the difference between strong or weak reading skills. I don’t think anyone will argue that reading is an important life skill. Reading well, is important to being successful, even in our technology driven world. The internet, despite all the media it provides access to, is still a written medium.
Here are a few fun reading strategies we use to encourage letter recognition & phonetic awareness. These are, by no means, exhaustive. There are many other great reading strategies that can be used. These five strategies work well with the books I covered last week, and they can work for many others as well. Some of them may seem like common sense, but they are still effective. Sometimes we overlook the most basic approaches, thinking they don’t really matter, but they do.
1. Sing – Singing is a great way to learn and remember many things. Children love singing, whether they are doing it, or you are. The ABC song is a perfect way to start them on the road to literacy. They will have fun, and not even know that they are learning the basics of reading. Sing the song before, and after, you read an ABC book. Depending on how the book is written, you might be able to sing it while you read. The Eric Carle book is a great example of a good singing book. The inside cover has the complete alphabet printed in capital letters in front, and lowercase letters in back. We sing the song before and after we read. Also, you don’t have to stick to the traditional version of the song. There are many updated and new versions you can try, just check out youtube, or make up your own.
2. Point as you read – Point to the letters as you read and sing. Pointing to the letter while speaking the name of it, helps children to associate the shape of the letter, with the name. Also, point to animals or pictures in the book that start with the letter you are reading. With Kirk’s Miss Spider book it is fun to point, or have the kids point, at the bug in the picture that goes with the letter. When we read the B page we point at the Bees and the Balloons. As your children get a little older you can have them point to the letter in the word on the page. Have your toddler point to the B in Balloon. How many B’s do they see on the page? In the Carle book we point to the letters on the front cover as we sing the song, and we do it again at the end of the book.
3. Sound it out – Sounding out and listening for letter sounds in ABC books is easy to do. The words with the proper sounds are already there. As a reader, you just need to emphasize them. Say the sound the letter makes a few times before completing the word. Buh, buh, buh bird. You could make a game of it, having your little one repeat the sound to you. Try using different patterns and pitches to make it sillier and fun. Also, books like The Race Car Alphabet are good for this, because they may have several words on a page with the same letter sound, “Curves across the course cause cars to careen…” With Sneed’s picture book, you can say the names of objects in the picture, and have your child listen for the sound in the words.
4. Trace the letter – Those of you with older toddlers can prepare them for writing, while helping them learn the names of the letters, by having them trace. As you read, have them use their finger to trace the letter you are on. Books like Carle’s or Kirk’s are good for this because they have a large letter standing alone on the page. This adds a kinetic element for those children who learn more through doing. You can even have them trace the letter in a tray of sand, whipped cream, or paint.
Don’t plan on using each of these every time you read an ABC book. Mix it up and repeat as you like. Use one strategy one time, and a different one the next. Make it as silly and fun as you can. We want our children to associate reading with fun. Anything you can think of doing with the book that involves action, singing, and silliness will make the child want to come back and do it again. At the core of this, is the repetition. The more they do it, the more it will stick with them. You may be out of your mind, exhausted, and crazy bored with it, but it is new and fun to them. You are helping the build skills that will be very important for their learning in the future.