The Top 6 Picture Books For Building Phonological Awareness
Struggling readers may have poor phonological awareness; therefore, it is SO critical to work on that in the early grades. But guess what? Phonemic awareness activities don’t have to be limited to the classroom! In the car, in a waiting room, or waiting in the lunch line. You have the choice to make activities as simple or as elaborate as your energy and your student’s or even your own child’s needs dictate. One of the easiest and most natural ways to work on phonemic awareness is through read alouds.
Here are a few of my favorites!
- The B Book by Stan & Jan Berenstain: This book is brought to us by the author of The Berenstain Bears. Although it is not about the Bear family, the illustrations nevertheless have a familiar quality. It is a cumulative story in which each word and phrase that is added begins with the letter b. Big brown bear, blue bull and beautiful baboon have all sorts of b adventures. The story becomes more and more zany as it goes on. In addition to providing a fun tongue twister, this story is wonderful for isolating the first sound in words, introducing alliteration and making predictions. One of the most powerful ways to use this book would be to have a student write and illustrate their own page with a character and descriptive words and actions that begin with b. A class project could be to make a similar story with another letter of the alphabet.
- Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw: When a bunch of sheep go on an adventure in a jeep, hilarity ensues. I’m sure your students will agree after reading this that Sheep are terrible drivers! This delightful favorite is wonderful because it lends itself to work across so many different levels and ages. From a preschool read aloud, to a first grade independent story, to an upper level examination of spelling patterns, there is more than meets the eye to this charming book. A simple rhyming structure with many rhyming pairs, this book also has a dizzying number of long e words. Because there are so many words with similar vowel sounds, this story lends itself to activities with auditory discrimination. What rhymes with sheep? Sheet, feet or heap? Are feed and feet the same? How are they different? We know that children need experience not only segmenting phonemes but manipulating them. Can your students identify the sound that has changed to make a word chain? Or build a word chain themselves using words from the story? The humorously illustrated sheep lend themselves to games and activities.
- Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman: You may remember the handclapping game that forms the basis of this story from your own elementary days. A little girl (Miss Mary Mack) befriends an elephant that jumped the fence in her backyard. This story is just waiting for some brave soul to sing it and play a hand-clapping game to go along. There is a reason that phonemic awareness and music go hand-in-hand. The rhythmic nature of the story lends itself to an exploration of syllabication. Playing a hand-clapping game allows the children to feel the beat of the words, something that can be particularly helpful for kids that struggle with hearing syllables. The repetition of the rhyme also provides an extra layer of support for struggling readers. With plenty of opportunities for alliteration, the short a sound, and the –ack rime, the story has a great deal of potential as a powerful phonological awareness read aloud.
- Runny Babbit by Shel Silverstein: This book of poems is centered around the character of Runny Babbit, but each poem is able to stand alone. This is not a read aloud you want to attempt without practice! It is trickier than it looks and harder to read than it sounds. The poems in the book are made up of “spoonerisms.” This word trick swaps the onset of two different words. So, “silly book” becomes “Billy sook”. This book is a great jumping off point for a more detailed exploration of onset & rime and learning to manipulate phonemes. It lends itself to writing activities and extensions and also provides some really good decoding work to “solve” the mystery phrase. I find myself wondering if an OG student may actually have an advantage when playing with words in this way because of all of the decoding practice they get. Children without learning difficulties may experience frustration in trying to wrap their mouths around these silly poems that lends itself to a discussion of compassion and learning differences as well. As is sometimes the case with Shel Silverstein, there are a couple of incidents of mild potty humor.
- The Cat Who Wore a Pot on Her Head by Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler: This vintage picture book may be hard to find, but it is worth the hunt. When Bendemolena finds a pot, she puts it on her head and finds the peace and quiet delightful. Her home is a busy and noisy place with all her brothers and sisters. However, when Mama cat goes to take care of a sick friend and Bendemolena finds herself in the role of messenger, listening takes on a new importance and things go hilariously amuck. This book is longer than many of the other phonemic awareness read alouds and also lends itself nicely to comprehension activities. What immediately resonates with me is that listening to, recalling and sequencing sounds is the foundation for all of the other phonemic awareness activities. This book so beautifully illustrates the importance of that. In addition, the nonsense words that Bendemolena thinks she hears are a great jumping off point for activities rhyme, onset-rime phonemes. Like the Runny Babbit, the use of nonsense words lays transparent the link between decoding and phonological awareness.
- Huck Runs Amuck by Sean Taylor: Huck the mountain goat LOVES flowers. The problem is that all the other goats like flowers too and there aren’t many left. But, Huck is determined to eat some delicious flowers. He goes to great lengths to try to get a mouthful of flowers. This book is full of rhythm, rhyme and repetition, all as part of a delightfully illustrated story with beautiful rich language. There are opportunities for working on alliteration, rhyme, syllables, descriptive writing and vocabulary. This book is meaty enough to use for multiple phonemic awareness activities as well as comprehension skills. Your students will be delighted as follow along with Huck’s adventures.
Thanks for reading today! I will have more book suggestions soon. If you have any, feel free to add some titles in the comments. Have a great day!