Reading stories and looking at picture books is one of the best ways in which you can support children’s spoken and written language development.
Children love repetition and it helps them to build their knowledge and understanding of word meanings – to build their vocabulary.
Children also love sound play – it’s fun and it helps develop their ability to recognise and say speech sounds in different words. These are key foundation skills for success in phonics, early reading and spelling.
A picture book can be a great springboard for a range of extension activities that will provide lots of opportunities for related sound play.
Children love to hear stories again and again! A simple and interactive storyline makes it easy for children to anticipate what happens next and to join in when they hear the story again. This will provide them with lots of opportunities to hear and to practice saying new words.
Children grow in confidence and join in more readily as the stories become more familiar. They may want to retell the story or to create a new story using some of the characters or storyline – puppets and props can make this easier for them.
Listening to multiple repetitions of sounds and rhymes supports the development of children’s speech sound awareness – it helps them to build an accurate picture of each word. They need this skill in order to be able to identify and then to manipulate the individual speech sounds. An essential skill for success with phonics which requires children to blend (put together) and segment (separate) the speech sounds.
Sharing stories promotes children’s understanding and use of vocabulary. Naming pictures helps to link a word’s label with its meaning and helps a child identify it when they hear it again within a phrases or sentence. Stories with lots of repetition, hearing the same story again and again, provide a range of opportunities to hear individual words.
Hear it then say it
Children recognise words that they hear before they can say them. Single words are easier to identify than words in sentences. In sentences they can blend in with other words - we hear a string of sounds and have to form them into words ourselves. So repeated opportunities to hear individual words help a child to focus in on the sound structure of the word.
Children need to hear a word several times and then practice saying it – if a child’s attempt isn’t quite right (and it can take quite a few goes!) it is helpful for the adult to model (to say) it correctly so that the child hears the target again.
Repeated opportunities to say the word helps, and stories that are full of repetition, rhythm and rhyme really help this process as they are very predictable.
Sound play and phonics
Playing with sounds and words allows a child to work out how they are put together and to build up a clear picture of how each word sounds.
As their knowledge increases they are able to identify single words and then the syllables within words. Finally they can identify the initial sound of a word and then the final and middle sounds.
Identifying the single sounds (phonemes) can be made easier by linking the sound to the letter shape – this is phonics, and the key to decoding in early reading. The more opportunities children have to play with, the easier they will find it to blend or segment words into individual sounds.
Sound play in practice
Engaging in a wide variety of sound play helps children develop their ability to recognise and say speech sounds in words. This is important for developing clear speech and gives children a head start in learning to read and spell.
Are you enjoying books that encourage sound play? Reading stories and looking at picture books provides you with lots of opportunities to support children’s spoken and written language development.
Do you read the same books again and again? When children hear the same story again and again it really increases their confidence as once they are familiar with the story they will be able to predict what comes next and join in more easily.
Children enjoy repetition and it also helps their learning of new words. Do you allow time for the children to respond to pictures and the words? It’s easier for them to do this with stories that are full of rhythm and repetition.
Do you have puppets and props available? Puppets and props will help you and the children with the retelling of a familiar story – or can even result in a completely new adventure!
Sound play is for each and every day! Can you think of ways in which you can bring sound play into daily activities with the children?
Anne Ayre is a speech and language therapist. She has over 20 years of experience as a lecturer, researcher, author and consultant. Her role in national projects for the Department of Education and The Communication Trust highlighted the need for additional evidence based resources that practitioners and parents can use with confidence, to support the speech and language development of all children.
Anne works closely with parents, practitioners - and children too! She is passionate about creating books and resources that are above all fun, yet expertly crafted to support the development of all children’s speech, language and early literacy skills.