When tapping out syllables is fun and predicting rhyming words is a wonderworld of discovery, pre-schoolers are finally ready for the first giant leap into pre-literacy. It is at this time that something quite magical happens in the developing pre-schooler brain. Children begin to notice that the first sound in words can be different.
Now sound-awareness games can begin.
This is the time when long car trips can be filled with loads of wordy fun. Call out a word, any word, and see who will be the first to find the sound it begins with. ‘I Spy with My Little Eye’ will be a winner, too, but watch out - children at this pre-reading stage don’t really care about letter names. They are focussed on how a word and its parts sound.
When I was about five, I had my entire family flummoxed. My ‘I Spy’ clue was ‘something beginning with ch’. My answer was ‘tree’. It sounds like it starts with ‘ch’, doesn’t it? You should have heard my older brothers and sisters groan.
And so it is with children at this critical sound-awareness stage. It’s all about letter sounds, not letter names. So, don’t bother with alphabet books at this stage. Instead, it’s time to embrace tales where the first sound in a word is featured.
Alliteration stories like Six Sleepy Sheep (Jeffie Ross Gordon and John O’Brien) and Don’t you Dare, Dragon! (Annie Kubler) are perfect for this stage. Can you hear all the words that start with the same sound?
Look-and-find books will also provide hours of fun. Who can find the most things that start with a particular sound?
Words are everywhere and so are the sounds they start with, so get ready to enjoy the ride as your pre-schooler explores words in a totally different way.