The April School Holidays are a great time to build on all that your child has learnt throughout the year and support your child’s progress with their reading. I’ve put together a few activities and strategies to help parents or caregivers support their child’s reading and early literacy skills.

A child requires both knowledge of the alphabet and phonological awareness to learn to read and spell. So, what is phonological awareness (PA)? When we are talking about PA, we are talking about the child’s ability to identify individual spoken words in a sentence and similarly, individual syllables or sounds within a spoken word. In other words, PA is the child’s awareness of the sound structure of words. PA is important as children who can hear the individual sounds in a word, have greater success when starting to read and “sound out” words.

To read a word, children need to understand that a word is made up of separate letters. Children should be able to identify each letter of the alphabet – both the name of the letter and the sound the letter makes to start to read. For example, when a child is learning the letter “S” they should know that “The name of the letter is “S” and it makes the /ssss/ sound.”

Here are a few fun ideas to help your child’s reading and literacy skills blossom!

Activities to help learn the letter name and sounds of the alphabet:

  1. Alphabet Treasure Hunt: Print out a simple set of the alphabet and cut out the letters. Try hiding the letters in some uncooked rice or around the room and take turns finding the letter and saying, “The name of the letter is “S” and it makes the /ssss/ sound.”
  2. Write letters on a whiteboard and get your child to put a circle around the letters you say. For example, ask your child to put a circle around the letter “T” or the letter which makes the /t/ sound. Once you know your child has an understanding of the letter name and sound, take turns asking each other to write the letter down. For example. “write for me the letter that makes the /ffff/ sound or write for me the letter that has the name “P.”
  3. Practice making letters with play dough, writing in sand or writing the letters in shaving foam on a mirror, or with chalk on the pavement. With every letter drawn the adult should model “the name of the letter is.. and it makes the .. sound.”
  4. Play I spy whilst driving in the car, when you are in the supermarket or at home whilst sharing a book. For example, “I spy a letter S on the STOP sign”, take turns as you spot different words on your journey.

Activities to support phonological awareness:

  1. Sing and read nursery rhymes. Rhymes are important as they help to highlight the end or start of the word. Read rhyming books, for example Dr Seuss books. For example, “Hop on Pop” or “The Cat in the Hat.”
  2. Play games with rhyming words in the car or in the bath. For example, taking turns coming up with words with the same sound at the end such as; plug, mug, bug and so on. Or even at the start as in “I spy..”
  3. Tongue twisters are also a fun way to play with and highlight the sounds in words, for example, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”
  4. Segment sounds in words. This is useful for writing. Clap, stamp or use a musical instrument to mark the sound of a word e.g. /d/ /o/ /g/.

Remember this is a learning activity and not a test. Children should always be supported in their learning; you should always be modelling the correct letter or sound. If your child makes an error, let them know immediately. For example, if your child mistakes a b for a d, let them know both verbally and visually, e.g. “oh this is the letter “d” and it makes the /d/ sound and it looks like this, a letter “b”, makes a /b/ sound, and it looks like this”. Learning can be fun and educational with a positive experience attached to it. Why not try these activities with your children during the April School Holidays!

By Beth Tomlinson
Speech Pathologist