A Step at a Time
Teaching Preschool Children
Teaching preschool children to read is a parental decision, although many bright preschoolers show such a keen interest in understanding the meaning of our written symbols that parents aren't left with much option!
There really isn't anything daunting about teaching a young child to read. What we do know is that whilst professionals disagree on the method to teach literacy, most (if not all) will agree that phonological awareness is the most reliable indicator of future literacy success.
Now you don't need to go out and buy anything to teach phonological awareness; don't underestimate the importance of your own verbal interaction with your child. There are simply ways that you can play or interact to encourage phonological (and phonemic) awareness. For some ideas to get you started please see below.
Ideas to Build Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
* Play I-Spy (using the sound not the letter name).
* When writing, whether it is your shopping list or your child's name on a painting, segment out loud as you write. For example, e-gg-s, c-r-a-ck-er-s.
* Play rhyming games, have some serious fun with words that rhyme, but aren't real!
* When asked what a word is by your child, sound it out and blend it, for example: s-t-o-p stop instead of just saying: stop. Role model how the language works.
* Play with words and sounds in general conversation. Ask your child to go and get their s-o-ck-s on, ask where d-a-d or the c-a-t is. Have fun with sounds by making up silly sentences with words starting with the same sounds: Sally snake can see you! 'Sssssssssssss' as you chase your child around the house! Even change the first sounds of every word in a sentence, for example instead of saying: Come here Josh, say: Come kere Cosh!
The bottom line is to have fun and play with sounds and words.
Building up a preschooler's awareness of spoken sounds is the best base you can give your child. If the child has an interest in writing or making the connection between the written symbol (letter) and its spoken sound, then teach them the alphabet sounds and go from there.
For your information the alphabet sounds are:
It is important to ensure that the long sounds, which are 'f', 'v', 'n', 'z', 'r', 'm', 'l', and 's', are not shortened. When the long sounds are shortened they tend to have an 'uh' added to the end. For example the correct pronunciation of 'm' is 'mmmmm' not 'ma'.
One of the complications of having the 'uh' added to these long sounds is that they become impossible to blend together. For example try blending the following sounds together: m-i-l-k = milk. Now try again with the 'uh' added to the long sounds: ma-i-la-k, try to blend it together. Impossible isn't it?
Don't forget that there is a lot more information (such as letter formation and correct pencil grip) on our Links and Extra Information page.
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IN A NUTSHELL
Is the ability to hear the difference between spoken sounds, to rhyme and even to hear the syllables of spoken words.
Is the ability to isolate individual spoken sounds and manipulate/change them.
Pushing sounds together to form a word, for example: blending the sounds 'b-e-d' together makes the word 'bed'.
Breaking a whole word into its spoken sounds, for example: 'bed' segmented is 'b-e-d'.
When talking to a preschooler about letters, refer to them by their sound instead of their name.
This is mainly to avoid confusion between letter names and sounds, but also because the letter names (whilst important for dictionary and more 'advanced' work) do not help a child learn to read.
Letter names can be learnt very easily later on.