Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lay a Foundation for Reading with the "Odd-One-Out" Game

While it’s true that more and more information is available these days in audio and video form, reading is still an immense part of how we all—including children—learn about the world around us. That’s why it’s important to help kids in any way we can to conquer this essential skill. As I’ve mentioned before in these tips, one important pre-reading skill that’s easy and fun to work on is “Phonemic Awareness.” What this fancy term refers to is the simple recognition that words are made up of separate sounds—for example, the word CAT is 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.

In a previous tip I talked about how introducing children to rhyming words through nursery rhymes and poems is an easy way to help them develop this awareness. Here’s why. Words rhyme precisely because they share their ending sounds but not their beginning sounds and poems help make these words and their sound similarities and differences stand out so children are more likely to notice. For example, hearing the words HILL and MILL in close proximity draws attention to the fact that they begin differently but end the same.

Here’s a simple game you can play with your 3- to 5-year-old to take advantage of the power of rhyming to promote phonemic awareness. It’s a form of what we call an “odd-one-out” game in which you say three words, only two of which rhyme, and ask your child “Which one doesn’t belong.” For example, you might say “Cat, Hat, Dog” where the one that doesn’t belong is “Dog.” Or “Juice, Boat, Goat,” where the one that doesn’t belong is the first word, “Shoe.” After a while, your child may even be able to reverse roles and give you the list of words to decide the “odd-one-out.”

This is a great game to play anywhere--while riding in the car, standing in line at the grocery store, or waiting at a restaurant for your food to arrive. And each time you play it, you can enjoy the fact that you’re not only having fun, but also providing practice that will help your child develop the important pre-reading skill of phonemic awareness.

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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