Kids can learn valuable skills through small, teachable moments during a normal day. This means no grueling work sessions with flash cards, buying expensive educational toys, or completing tedious worksheets!
Experts agree that children must have repeated exposure to “pre-literacy” activities to build their skills and enable them to become successful future readers. These skills set the stage for reading: (1) print awareness, (2) phonemic awareness, (3) vocabulary, (4) writing, and (5) oral language and comprehension.
Here are effective ways to sneak in literacy skills anywhere you go to give your child a head start for school:
Try not to get confused by the fancy name “Phonemic Awareness.” It just means knowing sounds. Many research studies have shown that phonemic awareness is one of the strongest predictors of later reading success. Pre-K children who have phonemic awareness can tell you the sounds they hear in the beginning of words.
Phonemic awareness can and should be directly taught to children. Parents can be the best teachers by singing with their kids, rhyming words and asking them the sounds they hear in different words.
Ask your child to tell you the sound they hear in familiar words. “Did you play with your friend Callie at school today? What sound does Callie’s name start with? Ck-ck-ck”
Try to sing one nursery rhyme a week together. (“Let’s sing the Itsy Bitsy Spider!”) In case you need to brush up on your nursery rhymes, check out the 50 most popular ones. Or use any poem or song that rhymes.
While driving in the car, give your child a simple word, like “cat”. See how many rhyming words they can create. Words that are made up like “zat” count, too! **NOTE: if your child seems frustrated, disinterested or overwhelmed with this activity, stop and try again another day. Try an easier game next time and build their skills starting there. It’s more important that children feel successful than it is to push them when they are not developmentally ready.
Have your child toss you a ball, then think of a word to rhyme, like “Dad”. Pass the ball to your child and have them think of a word that rhymes, like “pad”. Then pass it back and forth to each other with each rhyming word. The person who is stuck with no more rhyming words is out.
His books are filled with rhymes, funny characters and repeating words, the perfect recipe for excited “pre-readers”. Try the The Eye Book, The Foot Book, Great Day for Up, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?
Have your child hunt around to find objects with matching beginning sounds. Hold an object in your hand, like a cup. Tell them “I spy something in my hand that start with the c-c-c sound. What else makes this “ck” sound? (candy, cream, cabinet, cook, clock, cake, coffee, cutting board)
Each time you have dinner, ask for the sound one food starts with, for example, “We’re having macaroni and cheese. What sound does mmmmacaroni start with? Mmmmm”. It’s ok if they do not know the letter, but can at least imitate and tell you the sound. Recognizing sounds is just as important as knowing their letters at this age.
Phonemic awareness is all about playing with the sounds your child hears, so it does not include reading or writing.