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early literacy activities

Reading Activities

Early Literacy Games

Children may be ready for these games at different ages. Try these games for a few minutes during your normal playtime and stop before your child becomes frustrated or bored. It is most important to keep the activities fun! Try not to overload a child by attempting too many of the different activities at once. Focus on one or two of the activities at first and experiment to discover which activities are most enjoyable for you and your child.

Cup Game

Goal: To introduce words that do not have a concrete meaning.

You will need: two paper cups, scissors, and crayons. Cut a hole (about 2 inches in diameter) in the side of one of the paper cups, near the bottom of the cup. Place the intact cup inside the cup with the hole. Use crayons or markers to draw a happy face on the intact cup through the hole. Rotate the cups so that the happy face is covered and draw a face with another emotion (sad, angry, surprised, etc.).

Spin the cup to choose a face and talk about the emotion that face is displaying. You have many opportunities throughout the day to use words for concrete items (cup, car, shopping cart, toy, paint, etc.). Creating and playing this game gives you an opportunity to talk about emotions and use words that express ideas you can't hold in your hand.

Say it Fast, Say it Slow

Goal: To improve your child's ability to "take words apart" (say it slow) and put them "back together" (say it fast).

Choose a two syllable word (hot-dog, mon-key, air-plane), find a picture of it in a magazine or draw a picture of it, cut the picture in half.

Say, "I'm going to say this word slowly. I'm going to break it apart."

Separate the two pieces as you say the word again, this time slowly (e.g. "hot - dog", pause between the "hot" and "dog"). Point to the first part of the picture as you say "hot" and the second part as you say "dog". Be sure the picture is facing the child.

Practice saying the word "fast" (normally) and "slowly" (broken apart) as you take apart and put the puzzle back together.

When your child is able to say the words "broken apart" without your help, you are ready to try the following:

Lay out three puzzles of two-syllable words that he or she has practiced. Mix up the pieces and ask your child to put the puzzles back together and tell you the word normally and broken apart.

Ask your child to put the words together backwards and make a "silly" word out of it (e.g. "monkey" becomes "key-mon", "hotdog" becomes "dog-hot").

Introduce the three-syllable word picture puzzles (i.e. el-e-phant, kan-ga-roo, tel-e-phone).

Letter Day

Goal: To improve letter knowledge.

Choose a letter of the alphabet to celebrate all day long. Find a box or basket and collect things that begin with that letter as you go through the day. For example, if your letter is "B", you might find a baseball, a blanket, a beanbag, a branch, etc. and put them in the box.

Nursery Rhyme Counting

Goal: To teach your child that sentences are made up of words and that words are made up of smaller sounds.

Teach your child simple nursery rhymes. After he or she can say the rhyme and is very familiar with it, practice counting the words in one sentence at a time. The focus should be on teaching your child about sentences and words - that sentences are made up of words. If your child cannot count yet, then use blocks to represent words and built a tower as you say the rhyme, with one block added with each word spoken. After your child can do this activity based on words, move to counting syllables and then individual sounds in words.

Rhyming Memory

Goal: To hear rhyming words and sounds within words. Playing with rhymes and letter sounds will help your child sound out words when she or he starts learning how to read.

Find pictures of words that rhyme and create small cards for a memory game. Lay the cards out, face down, and take turns choosing two cards. Look for a "match" with two cards that rhyme (i.e. "hat" and "bat"). If the two cards you overturn don't rhyme, turn them back over.

You can also change the game and try to match two pictures that start with the same letter (i.e. "bat" and "baby").

First Letter Change

Goal: To hear smaller sounds in words.

Make up "silly" words by changing the first letter in a word. Play a game of seeing how many "silly" words you and your child can create and then have your child tell you whether or not the "silly" word is a real word. To play this game at the easiest level, you should make up several words by changing the first sound (e.g. cook, book, nook, mook, took, zook) and then asking your child whether or not it is a real word.

At a more advanced level, you can model and ask your child to change the first sound in a word from one work to another. For example, say "My word is


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