Thursday, March 15, 2012

Letters and Sounds

 I always love to hear about your books. One of my favorite things about the blog world is that I get to watch others' love of reading. I get to see your stacks of books on every surface, hear about your trips to the library, and discover new titles as you do.

We love reading here too. But really, we just simply love sounds...and language.

My husband and I are both multi-lingual and always dreaming about learning another language. We are raising our children bilingual (English and German) as well. In our family, we keep bilingual and monolingual dictionaries scattered all around the house and are constantly discussing the likely relationship between different words or the sociological implications of linguistic structures. (Yes, we are geeks.)

It should not be surprising, then, that both Evan and Clayton show a similar inclination. Though I have to admit that I am impressed and astounded on a regular basis by the things they can do with language. (I really want to brag a bit now, but I will refrain...)

We spend a lot of time making up songs, speaking in rhymes, and translating nonsense languages into English.

To encourage Evan's love for rhyming, I resurrected a game from my language-teaching days that has become a quick favorite. You will notice that this game also introduces some early reading concepts, though we are not really thinking about reading yet in our house. If you are starting the path to reading with your children, this game will be a great resource. However, even if you are not (like us), do not be afraid to try this game. Evan loves it mostly because it features lots and lots of rhyming words.

Place magnet letters on a metal surface (we use the removable bottom of a tart pan) to form a set of rhyming words. Start with a simple two letter combination that will yield lots of rhyming pairs. We use "at" pretty much exclusively because it has not yet become boring.

Work slowly to move individual letters in front of your chosen combination. Start by showing your child how a single letter can change the word and how these words all rhyme because of the part that stays stable.

Once your child is comfortable with you forming words, let him try. Allow your child to pick a letter and put it at the start of the word. Help him to sound out the word. (Maybe he will even remember it from the first stage.) The physical act of moving the letters back and forth will begin teaching your child information about how words are formed and how phonics works without any comment on your part.

This game involves a lot more direct instruction than we usually use in our home. It is something that can be used in the classroom - I know because I did so myself. But as long as Evan is enjoying himself, I do not see any harm in playing a little at school.

To keep our expectations appropriate for a three-year-old who has not yet expressed a lot of interest in learning to read, we always make sure the game stays gentle. I do not push Evan to answer my questions if he seems unwilling. We stay playful with the rhyming pairs, making up little songs as we go. And we stop playing as soon as Evan starts to fidget.


  1. I love this post! We too are geeks around here. Our love of words, dictionaries, and etymology is something that brought Jenn and I closer when we were first dating... in fact, when our wedding planner asked us what we wanted our theme to be (theme? I didn't know it was a requirement for getting married)... we both looked at each other puzzled. "what do you both love?", our planner asked. "words and dictionaries", we said. Now it was our planner with the puzzled look. But we did, we made our "theme" words and definitions and we even gave pocket dictionaries out as our favors!

    We have a magnet board with letters on it... and Avi is starting letter recognition... I look forward to this journey with him!

    1. A "words and dictionaries" wedding? That sounds AMAZING!