This post is part of my 6×6 series on encouraging literacy in children from birth to five.
It is important to encourage phonological awareness in 4 and 5 year olds, or pre-readers. This means they need to be aware of the individual and separate sounds that make up spoken language. According to research children that play with rhyme and words sounds in preschool have an easier time learning to read. Often children who struggle in the early years of school with reading have trouble with phonological awareness. Word sound and rhyming games and books are great for this stage of readers. Anything to do with sound and the break-down of words will help them build phonological awareness.
Take Time to Rhyme
As children play with words, whether it’s rhyming or making up silly sounding words, they are building phonological awareness. It is important for pre-schoolers to be able to hear rhyme in words and identify the beginning sounds in words. Can they name several words that have the same beginning sound or that rhyme together? If so, they are well on their way to reading. Breaking words up into syllables is another avenue of this skill that is important to build upon. Afterall, our words are made up of sound parts.
So, how can we help our pre-schoolers build their phonological awareness. Play games and sing songs that rhyme! Pick a word and practice thinking of words that sound like it. They can be real words or made up words, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge of the shared sound, the rhyme. If they can switch out beginning sounds but still make the words rhyme they are doing well. Sing songs with them. It doesn’t matter if you have a good voice or not. Kids don’t care about that. What matters it the practice with rhyme. Most songs, especially kid songs, rhyme. They are also easy to remember and repeat.
Read short books with rhyme that are easy to memorize. Your pre-reader will love sitting down to read a book to you that he has memorized, and it is wonderful reading practice for him, even if he isn’t actually reading. Plus, he feels so grown up doing it. Practice saying words out loud and clapping out their syllables. Play words games that change only the first sound in a word (buh, book, cuh, cook, etc). Practice making up rhymes. You can use pictures or things you see on a walk to start rhyming about. Have a sound of the day or make a collage from pictures from magazines that all start with one sound (cat, car, ketchup, cape, cap).
By taking time to rhyme you will have prepared your preschooler with the building blocks of reading. They will have the knowledge that words are made up similar sounds and different parts that can be put together in many ways. This puts them in a prime position to start reading. So start rhyming!