Whisper Phones

Here’s an inexpensive way to make reading aloud more fun:



Oh wait…*quiet voice*…whisper phones.

Whisper phones have been used by teachers in the classroom setting for a while now, but there’s no reason you can’t make your own for your children to use at home.

Simply take two PVC pipe elbows and connect them to a straight PVC pipe about 5 inches long or so. You can add decorative duct tape or stickers to the pipe to make it more festive.

Use them just like any phone, except you’ll want to have your children whisper into the phone as they are reading aloud from their favorite book. It will carry sound quite well, so you’ll want to make sure they whisper.

The purpose of these whisper phones is to let children hear themselves as they read aloud. This helps enhance fluency (the ability to read accurately, quickly, and with expression). This is also a great activity for children who might find reading boring. They can “call” their favorite person and pretend to read to them over the phone.

If you visit our Laugh, Play, Read: Heroes programs this summer, your children will be able to test these out!


Phonological Awareness: Sounds

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. For the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.

Teaching Phonological Awareness

Today’s topic is PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS, or the ability to recognize the sounds that make up words:

  • Say silly tongue twisters.
  • Sing songs, read poetry and picture books, and make up silly rhymes together.
  • Point out the link between letters and sounds.
  • Play word games such as “What sounds like ran?”.

Being able to identify and recognize letter sounds is very important. Children are more likely to understand and identify words in print when they already know that letters are simply symbols that stand for a specific sound and when you put those sounds together they make up words. Making up silly, nonsense words is okay at a young age because you are helping your child determine sounds letters make. As your children get older, reading and saying tongue twisters over and over again also helps with fluency–or the ability to read easily and accurately.

Here are some great books your child will love reading:

Six Sheep Sip Thick Shakes by Brian P. Cleary
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrdhart
Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein
Tanka Tanka Skunk! by Steve Webb

Asking Questions…

Sharing a book with your young child can be a fun experience. (I realize it can also be stressful–especially if your child is having a wiggly kind of day!) Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to books and allowed the chance to touch and explore the book are more likely to appreciate them as they get older. So why not let your toddler and preschooler have the same experience? And by experience, I don’t mean letting your preschooler put a book in his mouth to explore it. No. By this age, preschoolers are more interested in the actual content of the book. And if they aren’t quite there, it’s okay. Maybe they haven’t found the right book, yet. (You can always ask your local librarian for a little help on that front!)

familySo what do I mean? During story time, read through the book one time just the way it was intended. But as you read it a second or third time, here are a few questions you can ask while reading:

1. Pause on each page. Point to an object on the page and ask your child what it is.
For instance, if you see an apple tree, point to it and ask, “What is that?”

2. Respond to your child’s answer by repeating what he said.
If your child says, “A tree!” you can respond by saying, “Yes that is a tree.”

3. Expand on your child’s answer if possible.
“Yes, that is a tree. It’s an apple tree!”

4. Have your child point to the object.
“Can you point to the apple tree?”

From there, you can also expand on other things that are the page (objects, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, etc.). Repetition is so important, so read the story over and over (not in one sitting). Start leaving words off at the end of a sentence. Let your child fill in the blank. Use the pictures as your guide and tell a story based on the illustrations and not the author’s words. Relate the words or pictures in the story to an event in your child’s life. Ask questions like who, what, where, why and when. If you read the story using more questions and relying less on the actual text, you’ll notice your child may start reading the story to you!

It may seem a little early in the life of a child to start practicing these reading techniques, but when he gets to Kindergarten, these are the same questions teachers will be asking. It’s never too early to start preparing–just keep it lighthearted and fun. When it becomes frustrating, stop and take a break.

For more information on reading techniques, visit http://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-effective-way-read-preschoolers.

Are you talking to your child enough?

Recent studies are showing that the more you talk to your children between the ages of birth to 3, the larger their vocabulary and the better their reading comprehension by the time they enter school at age 5.

Graphic courtesy Ohio Ready to Read

Graphic courtesy Ohio Ready to Read

So what do we mean when we say “talking?” It’s more than just the directional speak or “business talk” we use on a daily basis. It’s the conversations and the questions we ask. Instead of saying, “Come sit down for lunch,” offer a question or explanation: “Come sit down for lunch. I’m making peanut butter and jelly. I’m going to put the peanut butter on the bread, cut the sandwich in half, pour a class of milk, give you a handful of pretzels. Would you like carrots or a string cheese?”

Not only are children learning sequencing by doing this, they are also hearing more words.  According this study done just a few years ago by professors at the University of Kansas, children who heard at least 30,000 words a day regardless of socioeconomic status, acheived greater success by third grade than those who heard less than 30,000. Just how much is 30,000 words, though? According to the article, it’s like reading Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat 18 times a day.

So when you are talking to your baby just remember the influence you will have on your child when they reach 3rd grade. And talking is probably the most inexpensive way to increase your child’s vocabulary.