In the years leading up to kindergarten, your child is building a strong foundation for literacy — and you're supporting that through activities like reading aloud. Before you know it, your child will begin sounding out words.
Two of the strongest predictors of future literacy development are phonological awareness — the ability to recognize and play with individual letter sounds, rhyme, alliteration, and syllables — and knowledge of the alphabet, says Nancy Garrity, senior director of early childhood at Scholastic Education.
“We typically focus on phonological awareness before kindergarten with alliteration, rhyming, and separating words into syllables,” she says. “It’s when children are learning to recognize letters and the most common sound each makes.”
These skills help your child sound out words more easily as they read new material. Here are three ways to accelerate their skills and ability to read new words.
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1. Play sound games tied to physical movement.
Physical activities like climbing stairs, jumping rope, or bouncing a ball all have distinct sounds that are perfect for games that build phonological awareness. For example, when climbing stairs, encourage your child to pay special attention to the thud of their feet, then invite them to say a few words that rhyme with the same sound, like mud, bud, and more.
“You can take turns saying rhyming words, naming words that start with the same sound, or breaking words apart by syllable and putting them back together again,” says Garrity. “These are games you can play almost anywhere to build your child’s literacy skills.”
2. Play “I Spy” with the alphabet.
As your child learns the alphabet, they’ll soon realize they’re surrounded by letters! Garrity suggests encouraging children to be on the lookout for familiar letters in the world around them (say, on signs or on boxes) and of course in books. One book that’s (naturally!) perfect for this is I SPY Letters.
“When you find a letter, say its name and the sound it makes,” says Garrity. “And show excitement when you come across a letter that’s in your child’s name!”
When your child is ready to begin sounding out words, Garrity suggests reading decodable books — books with letter-sound combinations your child is already familiar with — like those in the BOB Books Set #1: Beginning Readers box set.
3. Write it out together.
Inviting children to be part of your everyday writing process, such as with to-do lists, thank you cards, and even text messages, is another great way to help them develop the skills they need to begin sounding out words.
“This helps them understand the importance of literacy in everyday life and provides great motivation for learning,” says Garrity. “For instance, as you type a text, invite your child to help you find a letter on the keypad. Or work together to make labels for toy bins, coat hooks, shelves, and more.”
Shop these resources that will improve your child’s ability to sound out words! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.