Sounds, Letters and Words

Learning Consonants

You can help your child begin to identify letters and match sounds to letters in familiar words. Choose activities with your child’s skill level in mind – don’t select anything too hard. This will make sure they succeed, see progress and have fun. To begin, try one of the following activities:

  • Play  “I Spy” together, “spying” words that begin with various consonants (like m or p): “I spy something that begins with the letter ‘m’.”
  • Talk about words for things you come across in your daily travels together – things like furniture, signs, labels or grocery items.
  • Have your child choose a consonant (such as the letter “t”) and write it on a few pieces of paper. Together, place the paper labels on objects around the house that start with that letter sound (for example: table, toilet, towel, tomato). Try placing the letter on an object that doesn’t fit the pattern and see if your child catches the “mistake.
  • Play with word patterns by building a “rhyming tower.” Place a building block on a table. Choose a word such as “cat” and ask your child to think of words that rhyme with it (like “mat” or “hat”). Take turns rhyming each other’s words. For every successful rhyme, add a block to your “rhyming tower.” How high can you build the tower before it falls over?

Sight Words

Ask your child’s teacher what common words your child should be able to recognize without sounding out the letters or syllables. These are called “sight words.” Think up fun ways to help your child learn them. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • When you read with your child, choose a word and have them snap their fingers every time they read it (for example: “Snap your fingers every time we read the word ‘and’”)
  • Encourage your child to spell, read and “eat their words,” using alphabet pasta or cereal.
  • Cut out letters of the alphabet from newspapers, magazines or cereal boxes and put them in a container. Your child can use them to practice spelling their sight words.
  • Set aside one evening a week as ‘Game Night.’ Choose a word game (either a homemade game or one you have bought) that the whole family can enjoy.

Starting to Read

If your child is starting to read short, simple stories with pictures, help them with words they don’t know and with the meaning of sentences.

If your child gets “stuck” on a word, wait a few seconds and then give a hint by asking questions: “What sound does the first letter make? Do you know a word that starts with that sound and makes sense? Does the picture help you?”

Have your child read to you while you cook dinner. Talk to them about what they read.

If they get stuck on a word or lose track of the meaning, try giving hints (for example: “What do you know that can help you? Think about what might make sense. What other word do you know that is like that one?”). Suggest that they try reading past the word and on to the end of the sentence. Then, have them go back and try to figure out the word.