As a teacher, I regularly am asked by parents, “What can I do to help my child?” The answer to this question is very simple, but also pretty complex – phonemic awareness.
On the complex side, phonemic awareness (frequently called PA) is the key to helping a child become a reader. One researcher, David Kilpatrick, describes phonemic awareness as critical for a child learning to read. It is, essentially, how a reader stores words in the brain. The ability to hear and “play with” the sounds of the language is an absolutely essential skill. Readers who struggle often cannot manipulate the sounds of the language.
While the concept itself is huge, and can be overwhelming, the actual practice of working with phonemic awareness is not. In fact, it usually is a lot of fun! Here are a few fun things to do with your child that will help improve the very important foundation of reading skills!
1) Read rhyming books to and with your child.
Books from Dr. Seuss are fantastic read-alouds. Read a book like Green Eggs and Ham with your child. While reading, stop at the end of a line and encourage your child to fill in the rhyme. For example, you may say, “I will eat them in a box. I will eat them with a …” Your child can fill in the rhyme, “fox!” Some other great books are:
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear,
- Sheep in a Jeep,
- Llama Llama Red Pajama,
- A Wocket in my Pocket,
- Room on the Broom.
2) Play I Spy while at home or anywhere else!
Ask your child to find items throughout the room by saying, “I spy something that begins with the /t/ sound.” Encourage your child to find and name the items in the room that begin with the /t/ sound. Don’t name the letter names, but rather focus on the sound that the letter makes.
3) Practice combining words and syllables.
Children can hold their hands over their heads. As you say one half of a word, “cow,” children bring their left hand down in front of their chest. Then, they say the second half of the word, “boy,” they bring their other hand down. Then, children join their hands and say the whole word, “cowboy.”
Start with compound words:
Move on to having children repeat the activity with two syllable words that are not compound words:
4) Repeat activity number 3, but in reverse!
Have children hold their hands in front of their chests and say the two-syllable word. Then, ask them to split the word apart while raising hands above their heads.
5) Play Guess My Word.
Tell your child the sounds in a word (start simple!) and ask them to guess the word you are making. Say, /b/ /i/ /g/, guess my word! BIG! Repeat with other 3 letter words.
The below video shows a few more phonemic awareness games you can play with your children anytime, anywhere.
Playing with words and sounds helps prepare a child’s brain for reading – the most important preparation we can do!
Written by Cheryl Garner.
Cheryl is a Brainspring Master Instructor, Certified Dyslexia Specialist, and Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school level, and was most recently an Elementary School Reading Coach.
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