However abstract learning letter names and sounds can be, normally children can do it. It is not too different and equally abstract when a child who has never been to a farm looks at a picture of a cow and says, "Cow...mooo." As you may have read in the previous post, the Alphabet Hotel homemade game can be a great way to get your child learning letters. Now, we'd like to give some options to grow this tool into a toolkit!
When you sense that a child may be interested in reading, start with games like Alphabet Hotel. It can be played by different ages and levels of pre-reading children. A two-year-old may play by matching the letters while an older sibling can name the letters as they match them, and an even older child can give the name and sound that the letter makes. If a child is not interested, leave it and try again in another month. Try using 3D letters, colorful letters, visually attractive and interesting letters.
Alphabet Hotel can be expanded with lower case letters. Suddenly Mrs B has a baby ("b") that needs to get back to mama in her hotel room. Again, start with two to three letters, then move up to more letters. It is important to note that it is advised never to use these letters together: E & F, C & G, H & A. As you can see, these look too similar and could be very confusing.
When the child knows the letters by name and sound, you will be putting c with C, and so on. At this point, it is encouraged to being teaching sight words. Kirby personally recommends teaching phonics and sight words at the same time.
In general, if phonics are taught alone the child may eventually become a slower reader. And generally speaking, if sight words are taught alone then the child will get stumped with words they don't know. When both are taught together, reading becomes faster and unknown words will not be so difficult. In our next post, we'll cover sight word games that can be used with phonetics and are effective and fun.