Phonological awareness is the ability for kids to hear the sounds that make up words. It includes the ability to hear when two words rhyme, say the sound a word starts with, or break words into syllables. Phonological awareness is an early literacy skill. Early literacy is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually do it. The more you teach early literacy, the more ready for school the kids will be. Research has shown that children who participate in early literacy activities before the age of 3, the higher their reading comprehension in the early grades. Kids need interaction and assistance to learn these skills fully. Here are 5 activities where you can practice phonological awareness with your child or in the storytime you are leading.

  1. Reading readiness starts at birth. Practice listening to the phonemes in words. Play a game with your baby by making a face that shows a vowel. For example, how would your mouth look if you said the phoneme /oo/? Make the face while facing your baby and holding him close. Say the sound and hold it for a while. Practice saying this over and over. He will start connecting the shape of your mouth to the sound, so he can try it himself. Baby will sometimes make the same face and repeat you. Sometimes babies are shy and wait until they are in their cribs at night. You might hear him practicing /oo/ over the baby monitor. Pause to let him mirror you. Mirror the baby if he makes a sound. Switch between sounds when you notice he isn’t paying attention anymore. Babies have short attention spans! (But novelty in sound keeps it up.) If you want to practice this with a song, “I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas” (familiarly sung by Raffi) is a great song to practice vowels repeatedly.
  2. Sing personalized songs and rhymes. Singing elongates the sounds in words so you can hear all the vowels and syllables. Insert your child’s name into songs. For example, if you are singing Pat-a-Cake, sing “Mark it with a B. Put it in the oven for Brian and me.” Articulate the words clearly, use simple lyrics, and practice often. Anyone learns really well through repetition, and children like hearing familiar songs. Repetition builds word memory and aids in recognition. Baby’s name is one of the first words he’ll recognize.
  3. Read books that rhyme, leave the last word of the rhyming sentence off, and see if the kids can finish it. Some good books for that are:
    • Parts by Tedd Arnold
    • How Big is a Pig by Clare Beaton
    • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
    • Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
    • My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk
  4. When you are singing or just for a fun game, clap out the syllables to a song or sentences and words. Start with your child’s name and familiar songs. Then challenge them with spoken sentences or new songs. Emphasizing the syllables helps kids learn the parts in a word. You will also know if they are off and can help correct their syllable recognition.
  5. Make up rhyme stories. Keep it simple. Even I have a hard time rhyming words. You want your child to be able to follow it. “Alex opened the door to go to the store. He ran out of groceries and wanted more.” Ask your child to help you find words that rhyme.