Once your child knows the consonant and short-vowel sounds, and understands that these sounds make words (which I discuss in part 1 and part 2 of this series), you can begin to help your child learn to sound out words. Now, this skill will come when your child is developmentally ready, so if he doesn’t catch on right away, don’t get discouraged! Just keep practicing letter sounds and phonemic awareness (understanding how sounds make words) and come back to sounding out regularly until your child is ready for that skill. And of course, read read read to your kiddo!
To introduce the concept of sounding out, start with 2-letter words, such as: in, up, and at, that can be added to in order to make CVC words (words that are formed with a consonant, then vowel, then consonant). Let’s use the word “at” for an example. Get out your magnet letters, letter tiles, or whatever letters you use with your child. Review the letter sounds of a and t, then ask your child to make the sound when you point to the letter. Here is a sample script:
Parent: What sound does A make?
Child: (makes the short A sound)
Parent: Good! What sound does T make?
Child: (makes T sound)
Parent: Great! Now Let’s try to put the sounds together and see if you can hear the word that they make. When I point to the letter, you make the sound, okay?
The parent will now point to the A, then the T several times, pausing for a moment after the T before going back to the A. After the child has made the sounds several times, ask her if she can tell what word the sounds make. If she gets it, and can tell you that the sounds make the word “at,” then you are ready for the next step! If not, make the sounds with her, and start to blend them together. If that helps and she can hear the word, you can try moving on to the next step. If your child is taking a while to catch on, come back to it another day.
Now that your child has been able to sound out the word “at,” try adding other letters to form CVC words. Keep your A and T together, and line up the consonants that can form a word at the beginning of “at.” That would include B, C, F, H, M, P, R, and S.
Have your child choose a letter, and place it at the beginning of “at.” Now help your child add the consonant sound to “at” in order to make a new word.
Sample script with letter H:
Parent: (pointing to H) What does H say?
Child: (makes H sound)
Parent: Good! Now let’s put H together with AT. You make the sound of the letters as I point to them.
Parent then points to the letters in sequence and the child sounds out the word.
Help him as much as he needs. And make sure to celebrate when he reads his first word!