Monday, July 11, 2011

"Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers"

I'm sure all of you are aware of how reading books to babies from very early ages is important for fostering literacy(as Julie is doing here at two ages with my grandbabies, Olivia and Nate), but here's another useful tip.

I’m hoping some of you recognize the title of this post as a classic “Tongue Twister,” one among a set of old favorites that also includes “She sells sea shells by the sea shore” and “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” I’m betting, though, that few of you have given thought to how these tricky mouthfuls actually aid kids in learning to read.

Here’s how. The way a phrase qualifies as a tongue twister is by including a series of words that all emphasize the same sound, for example, the sound of the letter “B” in the case of the baby buggy phrase. The beauty of these fun phrases is that they “sneak in” lessons about what reading teachers call “phonemic awareness”—the simple recognition that words, although when heard may sound like a single sound, are actually made up of separate sounds. The example I used in an earlier blog post where I talked about rhyming was the word “cat” which is actually made up of the separate sounds “C+A+T. Because the job of letters is to represent these separate sounds, being able to recognize that words are divisible in this way is obviously an important component of learning to read.

It makes sense, then, that anything that increases a child’s attention to the sounds at the beginning or within words—like Tongue Twisters do--indirectly helps increase phonemic awareness and, therefore, helps lay an important foundation for reading.

So, “Turn your toddler’s tongue to tricky twisting” and before you know it, she’ll be a “really rapid reader reading written words!”

Happy Signing (and don't forget to follow us on Facebook),


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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