Introducing letters can be ongoing, pointing them out when food packages show certain letters dominantly. Point to the letter, say the letter, say the name or brand of the food. As in other posts under this title, labeling different items in the house is a good way to gain recognition. Also, another method I like is to have mystery words. Either use, magnetic letters, and spell a word on the refrigerator for you child to figure out, or use a mystery word box that they draw a card out of to figure out. You can use an incentive chart to keep track of how many they sound out, or just make a big deal of it. Ring a bell, blow a whistle, or pop bubble wrap, or let the child make the noise, but just reserve it for a celebration of a word.
I like to put the ABC’s up on the walls of their room. I usually make them about 6” high in both the upper, and lower case. Make them out of construction paper, and cover with contact, or laminate. The upper, and lower case A will be one color, the upper and lower case B another, and continue to alternate different colors for each set of letters through Z. The best height to post them is about your eye level. That keeps them from just being taken off the wall. Also, if you hold your child in your arms, take their finger, and trace the letters as you say the name, the sound, and an example of a word, they will learn a multitude of things at one time. My only caution is this: they will also learn to stay up from nap, or bedtime just a little longer to do their letters. Sometimes they will also stand in their crib saying their letters and sounds.
There are many games or aids you can make to help your child read, here is a brief description of a few. The main thing is that it is fun. Don’t make it regimented, or a required time length to do it. You can make a word wheel: two circles out of poster board, connect one on top of the other with a brad, the inner circle has a notch, the bottom circle has “ad”, the top circle has different consonants such m. s, p etc. When the top circle is turned, it makes different words that end with “ad”. A word ring is words written on 3x5 cards that are cut in strips. The words can be words they can sound out, or sight words. A hole is punched, and reinforced, and put on a shower ring, (the metal kind). This can than be hooked on a belt loop. It is especially popular with little boys. Commercially, the best items I have found for teaching reading are DVD’s produced by Rock n Learn. You can find an entire range of learning products made by this company. They have videos in rock, rap, and country, teaching reading, math, foreign language, and a variety of other subjects. Starting at preschool, on up. These productions are educationally sound, and appeal to children. My grandchildren beg for them. What a trick, they are learning too! Another commercially produced line of toys are made by the Leap Frog company. I haven’t found any that I have been disappointed in. I started with the Phonics Leap Pad, which is not a book form, but a talking toy that you press a letter.
The following is an example of how easy it is to start a baby on the road to reading:
Five year old Brandon came home from kindergarten, proudly announcing that he was learning vowel sounds. I was sitting in the family room, trying to calm his fussy baby sister, who was 3 ½ months old. She suffered from colic. I told him I had just read in the baby book that at 4 months babies started cooing vowel sounds. He adored his baby sister, and said. “Let’s teach her.” Although I knew we were not talking about exactly the same thing, I thought it could not hurt. I would try anything to get her to stop crying, and maybe he would learn the sounds of his letters better.
So, we started. I laid the baby flat on my lap so her face could see mine. Then I started to say the name of each alphabet letter and the sound it makes. To my amazement, little Amber stopped crying, and was fascinated by hearing the sounds, and seeing my lips, and having my eyes fixed on her. Some of the sounds she thought were downright funny. All the usual colic soothers, the jiggling, patting, singing, and nursery rhymes didn’t work, but the sounds of the letters did. It worked many times after that, and I continued doing it through the preschool years at random times. Also, by the time she was about 6 months old she started to beat me to the sound or the letter sometimes. Since Amber was the only baby I had ever taught the sounds of the letters, I was anxious to see if my grandchildren would react in the same way, and learn the sounds. The answer is yes, yes, yes! My oldest grandchild is 5 now, and in kindergarten. Sounds of the letters are so easy for him… he is surprised they teach it.
Don’t stress over teaching reading. It can be fun to see the delight in the child’s eyes with new knowledge, and confidence. Don’t make it a competition with other mother’s or children. Some children are more excited and more apt to want to do certain aspects of reading. It comes in time. Also, some children never want to tell you what they know when quizzed, but spurt it out when it is their own idea.
By Kathleen Couch