Understanding that words are made up of individual sounds is the very first step towards becoming a reader. Also known as phonemic awareness, the ability to recognise and recall the sounds in words includes a range of skills that many children only become aware of in a formal setting. Children will start to become aware of these sounds through instructional activities like word games, language play, rhymes and other activities that develop their skill with words, syllables and the sounds within words.
Singing songs and nursery rhymes with your child are a great way to encourage them to hear sounds in words, and are an important component in many children’s learning development, helping them develop their speech and language skills. Not only are they fun and interesting for your child, they also introduce them to the rhythm and rhyme that are fundamental parts of nursery rhymes, and become some of the first simple stories that children can recall and retell, another important component of literacy development.
Along with reading nursery rhymes and songs, when speaking to your child, encourage them to listen to the different sounds in words by sound-talking instructions to them; for instance by saying ‘Go to b-e-d,’ ‘brush your t-ee-th,’ ‘put on your h-a-t’ etc.
As an activity, try writing some words that have only three sounds on separate pieces of card, e.g. cow, bat, dog, lip, sun, pot. Let your child select a card, read the word together and then hold up three fingers. Ask your child to tell you the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, then the final sound.
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