SoundPLAY. Sounds fun.

SoundPLAY is just as the name suggests…..playing with sounds! Not on a piano, your i-phone ring tones or beats from Spotify but playing with the sounds from the English speech sound system. Educators and parents who understand the value of SoundPLAY for their children and its relationship to early reading success are a speech pathologists’ dream. This SoundPLAY skill is known as ‘phonological awareness’ and is best described by Fitzpatrick (1997) as the “ability to listen inside a word”.

“It is widely recognised that phonological awareness is a strong predictor and prognostic marker of early reading success (Gillon, Carson, Boustead, 2007).”

Did you know?

There are only 26 letters in the alphabet but there are 44 sounds in the English speech sound system: 20 consonant sounds and 22 vowel sounds.

For example, we know that the letter ‘c’ can say /s/ or /k/ sounds and the letters ‘s’ and ‘h’ together make the unique but frequently-used sound /shhhhh/!
Interestingly, adults develop such strong literacy skills that their knowledge of speech sounds is quickly overtaken with knowledge of letters, spelling and word meanings. In fact, because of this ‘letters versus sounds conundrum’, many parents find teaching early reading and spelling skills difficult and wonder if they are “doing it right”.

The purpose of SoundPLAY is to empower parents, grandparents, even aunties or uncles to feel that they can play an active role in preparing their child for formal schooling in an age appropriate way beyond teaching their child to write their name or sing the alphabet (both important skills to learn of course).

“The more sensitive children are to the sound structure in spoken words, the more likely that the children will become strong readers” (Carson, Gillon and Boustead, 2007).

3 ways you are ALREADY supporting SoundPLAY:

1. By singing nursery rhymes to your child and letting them complete the rhyming couplet. Rhyming words have the last part of the word that sounds the same.

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly,
I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll….(wait) die!”

2. By highlighting when you or your child hears or says a very long word!

“Tyrannosaurus Rex. Wow that’s a long word!”

3. By playing with alliteration to highlight same initial sounds. It helps to stress these beginning sounds so your child takes stock of the alliteration.

“This is ‘Marcel the Monkey’” or “What a beautiful beach” or “Crunchy carrots”

Little Birdie Book Boxes include a SoundPLAY activity in every box that includes lots of fun and educational games.

Here’s a sneak peek into 3 of our SoundPLAY activities:

1. Playing card games like ‘Go fish’ to match picture cards that start with the same sound.

“Do you have a word that starts with the same sound as deer?” “Yes, I have a dog. Dog and deer start with the same sound!”

2. Making paper chains where each link is a syllable (or beat) of a word so the longer the word, the longer the chain. Write the part of the word (i.e. syllable) on each link of the chain.

“El-e-phant (clap it out as you say it). Elephant has three syllables or beats so let’s add three links to our paper chain.”

3. Creating puzzles by drawing simple pictures, cutting them up into separate sounds (e.g., c-a-ke). Children must guess the word by ‘blending’ the separate sounds of a simple word.

“Can you guess what word I am saying c-a-ke? Yes cake! Cake had three sounds so we are looking for three pieces of the puzzle to make the word ‘cake’.”

Remember that “reading is a complex skill influenced by behavioural, linguistic and cognitive factors” (Gillon, 2000) so we are not suggesting that parents tackle this on their own. We do know however that a crucial part of learning to read is being able to pay attention to the sound structure of language and that we can start developing these skills well before your child starts school.

So enjoy the fun of our SoundPLAY activities and reap the rewards by subscribing to our Little Birdie Book Boxes every month at and follow us on Instagram @littlebirdiebooks or Facebook to witness sneak peeks of ‘language learning in flight’!

A little birdie told me so,
Tania Kelly and Janice Zee


  • Carson, Gillon and Boustead (2013). Classroom Phonological Awareness Instruction and Literacy Outcomes in the First Year of School. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol 44: 147-160.
  • Fitzpatrick, J. (1997). Phonemic Awareness: Playing with Sounds to Strengthen Beginning Reading Skills. Creative Teaching Press.
  • Gillon, Gail (2000). The efficacy of phonological awareness intervention for students with spoken language impairment. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, Vol 31: 126-141.