Letter Sounds

Kids don't need to know all of the letter names before they can begin to learn their sounds--it's perfectly natural and often easy to learn them all together!

Some good resources
Starfall (click on ABC’s)
LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD
Alphabet Floor Mat (foam puzzle)
PBS shows: "Word World," "Super Why"

General Tips
1) When you talk about letter sounds, be sure not to add an “-uh” sound at the ends of the sounds. The letter “c” just says /c/, not /cuh/…otherwise, when sounding out a word, it comes out “cuh-at” instead of just “cat.”

2) Most letters make their own sound when you name them: in other words, you make the /t/ sound when you name the letter T. This makes these letters/sounds easier for kids to learn. (The exceptions are short vowel sounds, and the letters c, g, h, q, w, and y.) If your child already knows the alphabet, you might be surprised to ask, “What letter do you think t-t-t-tiger starts with?” and hear your child guess “T” right away!

Ideas for Teaching Letter Sounds

Use book titles as you read, or signs at stores.
--“There’s the Target sign. See? T-t-T for T-t-Target!”
--“This book is called [point to the words] F-f-f-Fancy Nancy. The F says f-f-f, so this word is F-f-f-Fancy.”

Again, just keep it casual—every word doesn’t need to be a drawn-out lesson. You’re just planting the idea that letters make sounds.

Have your child help you make a grocery list
Keep it to maybe 3 or 5-items that your child can carry in addition to the “real” list. “Let’s see, we need apples. A-a-apples…what letter should I start it with? A says /a/. A-P-P-L-E-S.” Draw an apple above the word as a picture clue. At the store, have your child consult the list: “What do we need now? Bread? Good, that’s right! That says b-b-b-bread. B for bread.”

Use the alphabet puzzle mat or write with sidewalk chalk outside.
Have your child grab or jump on a letter as you call out its sound.

Make a family directory.
Post photos of people in your family on the pantry door or the fridge, and have your child watch you write each person’s name on a label beneath their photo. “Who’s this? Right, Uncle Mike. M says mmmmmm so his name is spelled M-I-K-E.”

You don’t need a million, but a few is fun for teaching a handful of letter sounds. Every once in a while, ask, “Where’s the word MmmmMike?…That’s right! Mike starts with M. M for Mike! You’re reading!”

Later, you might remove the photos and mix the names around and see if your child can use the first letter sound to figure out which name is which.

Play “Guess My Word.”
You make the sounds: “/r/.../a/.../t/” (with a one-second pause between each sound) and your child puts them together to guess “rat!” This teaches them to blend sounds, which is exactly what they do when they first learn to read.

This game will be hard at first--don't be surprised if you make the sounds for "rat" and your child yells, "Refrigerator!" or even "Green!" It doesn't take long, though, for them to catch on!

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