Tuesday, January 25, 2011

P is for pigeon: A simple way to build phonemic awareness skills

Well, move over David, there's a new favorite on the bookshelf this week. 

Since this past October (when baby bookworm turned 10 months), she has been fascinated with the "p-p-p" sound.  I think her fascination began with a 1st trip to the pumpkin patch and the numerous pumpkin books that followed.  Every time we would pass a pumpkin on someone's stoop while we were out on walk she would exclaim "p-p-p" and I would say, "yes, a pumpkin! You're so smart" (or some other obnoxious proud-mother remark).  Now that baby bookworm is a little older we have been working on associating these sounds that she makes naturally with the corresponding letters - another phonemic awareness activity (for a similar activity see the Nursery Rhymes post).  Yes, baby bookworm is a little young to completely understand the full spectrum of phonemic awareness skills (knowing when two words rhyme, knowing if words begin with the same sound, understanding syllables, and knowing that words are composed of sounds and these sounds can be blended together to form words), BUT I figured she does know that a word like pumpkin begins with "p-p-p"... why not associate the letter with that sound?  A letter is just another symbol, and she can identify lots of symbols.  Plus, and most importantly, there's lots of research showing that phonemic awareness activities can enhance reading ability.  So, what better way to introduce a phonemic awareness activity than with a book!  She is a baby bookworm, after all. 

So....books highlighting the letter p, that are fun, easy to read, and have a simple story line.  Hmm.....I am a huge fan of Mo Willems' "words and pictures" and knew of these pigeon books but we had never read them.  So on our usual Monday trip to the library we checked out 3 of his books in the pigeon series: The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!, and The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too! (board book).                                          .

We read The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog first.  This is a book where you can use lots of expression and really develop your own pigeon character (because he has quite the big personality).  I emphasized to baby bookworm that the main character was a "p"igeon and that word started with the letter "p" and makes the p..p..p sound like pumpkin.  Then we read The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too....a perfect book to teach baby bookworm about the differences among happy, sad, and angry feelings.  She loved my happy, sad, and grrrr...angry faces and even tried to make her own (how cute).  Then I asked her what makes her happy, sad, and angry?  But answered myself, of course.  With this book, again, I highlighted that pigeon starts with the letter "p".  Then last but not least, we read the The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, and this is where I let the message drive home since this book has wonderful "p" sounds in it (like puppy, piggy-back, possibilities).  After reading the book one time through, I showed baby bookworm where all of the letter p's where in the book (and puppy has 3 that we could count!).  We practiced saying "p...p...p" and as I read each p word, I emphasized the p sound.  Then, on baby bookworm's Alphabet letter chart (a great find at the Dollar Tree) I pointed out the letter P.  After a few times, she could correctly identify the letter P on the chart!  Of course, I let the "p" lesson go throughout the rest of the day.....I played the Pigeon song from Sesame Street, she ate pudding for snack, and we (well, mostly me but she did help) tried to find p words in magazines. 

So if your baby bookworm-to-be has a favorite sound.....go with it!  Make the whole day "brought to you by" that letter.  Here's the books that helped us have a day of the letter P. 

The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!
Words and Pictures by Mo Willems
A picture book about the pigeon wanting a puppy, until he realizes what having a puppy is all about.

The Pigeon Finda a Hot Dog!
Words and Pictures by Mo Willems
A picture book about the pigeon who doesn't want to share his hot dog with a duckling.

The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!
Words and Pictures by Mo Willems
A board book (smidgeon of pigeon) about the pigeon and a bus driver who tricks him into showing us his happy face.

For information about other Mo Willems' books, check out his website at:

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