A key step on the road to reading is recognizing that spoken words are made up of separate sounds (phonemes) and that those sounds are represented by letters on the page. Incorporating printed words into play time allows opportunities for adults to talk with their children about letters and sounds. One way to model this in storytime is to make a set of labeled pop stick puppets to hand out to the children. The puppets could represent anything: animals, shapes, colors, animal homes (nest, cave, anenome, etc), characters from a book you’re sharing that day. The puppets should have an image with a printed caption below it.
Make a set so that there are several each of dogs, cats, mice or several squares, triangles, circles. Hand out one pop stick puppet to each child. Invite the child to look at their pop stick puppet with their adult, and decide which animal, shape, or character they have. Have the adults point specifically to the printed caption below the image, and sound out the word for their children.
Then you can have the children do something with their puppet–they can make the animals move around, they can make their animal’s sound, they can play hide and seek–or you can do a little activity as you collect the puppets: If your puppets are animal homes, you could put a bird on the flannelboard and have everyone with a nest bring up their puppets, then a bear to bring up all the caves. Or you could make the animal sound (“meow”) and have the children bring up the matching puppets.
Or you could sing a variation of “Red, Red Is the Color I See” to bring the puppets up front.
Here’s a Slideshare with the tune, and a way you could adapt the words:
Dog, dog is the animal I see
If you have a dog then show it to me
Stand up, turn around
Bring me your dog and then sit down.
When you’re done, tell the parents, “When you talk about written words with your children, they start to learn that the sounds of the words they hear are represented by letters on the page. This is a first step on the road to reading! Talking with your child will help them get ready to read!”