Children learn to read through two means: whole word recognition and phonics. Whole word -- or whole language -- consists of memorizing entire words. The Dolch word list -- comprised of words that cannot be sounded out -- is a primary example of a time when whole word recognition is vital. However, most words can be sounded out by matching a single or double-letter pair with the assigned sound. Preschoolers can benefit from simple verbal phonics word games as an introduction to discerning different sounds. Appropriate word games for little ones tackle initial sounds and end, or rhyming sounds.
Initial Sound: Alphabet Phonics Games
You can create or adopt an alphabet chant that may go something like this: "A is for apple, B is for ball...". Just make sure that the item associated with each letter has the initial sound of the letter. Working daily with your preschooler, help her master the alphabet chant. Exaggerate the letter and initial sound; add kinesthetic movements, like taking a bite out of the imaginary apple and throwing the pretend ball. Always be upbeat and enthusiastic so that your preschooler is excited to work on the chant game regularly.
Initial Sound: The Name Game
Now build on the alphabet chant lessons by helping your youngster sort and match various items of like initial sounds. For instance, a ball, battery and brownie all begin with the B sound. Repeat the "buh buh buh" sound frequently to help him make the connection. Follow these steps for all other initial sounds, monitoring that he's correctly saying the desired sound.
Rhyming Sounds: Sorting and Matching
When your preschooler is comfortable identifying initial sounds, introduce her to rhyming sounds. Short, single-syllable sounds are age-appropriate. Focus on rhyming words like "fun, run and bun." Again, physical items that she can manipulate or demonstrate will help her build mental bridges to facilitate long-term memorization. Help her to say out loud the rhyming words. Once she's mastered a number of sets of items and is able to consistently sort items or actions correctly, you can challenge her by presenting her with additional items, such as "sun."
Rhyming Sounds: Flashcard Games
A more challenging verbal phonics game incorporates drawn representations of items on flashcards. The concept is the same as for three-dimensional items, like a "ring" but instead of the actual item, it is designated by a two-dimensional drawing. Since all reading is an exercise in recognizing symbols that often stand for concrete items, flashcards function as a transition to reading readiness. Remind your young one to say out loud what she is identifying as a practice opportunity for mastering rhyming items. Whichever verbal phonics word game you play with your child, remember to keep the activity short and fun. This will ensure her continued interest.