As a mother who is also a linguist and a librarian, I am already thinking seriously about my daughter’s language development and reading skills. She is only four months old, but I am already doing everything possible to make language and reading as easy as possible for her. My husband and I talk and sing to our daughter all the time. I also read to her almost everyday (or at least when she will sit still long enough!). As a child without any physical or mental disabilities, I know that she will acquire her first language without any problem. As for reading, though, she will need to be taught just as every other child needs to be taught the skill of reading. I have therefore been on the lookout for educational materials that could help my daughter learn to read.
One such DVD for teaching reading skills to younger children is the new Letter Sounds DVD from Rock ‘N Learn. Founded by two brothers, Richard and Brad Caudles, in 1986, Rock ‘N Learn began with the simple idea that children could learn by putting educational material to music with a current sound. According to the Rock ‘N Learn website, Letter Sounds is a DVD for beginners between the ages of four and seven who are learning to read with phonics. Letter Sounds covers the most common sound that each letter makes through energetic music and fun games. The DVD teaches letter sounds, consonant combinations, and reading words and sentences. From just the description, I was already excited about Letter Sounds.
Letter Sounds runs for approximately sixty-two minutes and includes eleven segments:
- The New Alphabet Song
- Learn the Sounds
- Letter Sounds Quiz
- Name That Letter!
- Sounding Out Words
- Reading Words
- Consonant Combinations
- Spell It!
- Swap the Sounds
- Common Sight Words
- Reading Sentences
The DVD begins with a quick review of the uppercase and lowercase written letters of the English language. After the review, children learn the most common spoken sound represented by each written letter. A mouth illustrates the formation of each sound. I really liked the inclusion of the mouth. Babies learn to read lips in a way during the early stages of language acquisition. Older language users, too, often rely on seeing their interlocutors speak as a way to help decode language. Having a mouth show how each letter sound is produced is incredibly helpful for young children who are working on associating a spoken sound with a written letter.
I also really liked the graphics on the Letter Sounds DVD. Based on our research, my husband and I have decided that we are not going to allow our daughter to watch too much television. Right now, the only show that she gets to watch is Sesame Street and only when I am away at work. Watching Elmo is special time between daughter and daddy. One of my biggest concerns about watching TV is that most television programming is so fast paced and too over stimulating. I appreciated the simplicity of Letter Sounds. The colors are bright and fun. The characters are entertaining. However, the screen is not covered with images that switch at a rapid pace. I like that my daughter can look at the screen and see the same scene for a while, which will allow her to process the information being presented more easily.
I also thought that the activities and song were extremely engaging. I obviously already know all of my letter sounds and am an excellent reader. However, even for an adult like me, Letter Sounds was entertaining. I found myself playing along with the games and singing the songs as I watched the DVD with my daughter. Parental engagement with a child is essential for learning and development. I am so pleased that Rock ‘N Learn has produced an educational DVD that holds the attention not only of children but also of their parents and teachers.
My one complaint about Letter Sounds is that the DVD teaches only the most common sound that each letter makes. Written English is far from being phonetic. Each letter represents multiple sounds, and one sound is represented by multiple letters. For example, the letter G sounds different in the words gate and giraffe, and the same sound is represented by the letter I in the word fish but the letter O in the word women. Teaching only the most common sound that each letter makes is a little misleading, especially for the vowel sounds. However, I do think that the Letter Sounds DVD is a great starting point for young children who are learning to read. Parents and teachers just need to make sure to stress that a single letter can make more than one sound and a single sound can be represented by more than one letter.
Final Verdict: Letter Sounds from Rock ‘N Learn is a great beginner DVD for teaching children to read. I will definitely be letting my daughter watch Letter Sounds when she gets a little older. I love the simple but entertaining characters and graphics. I give the Letter Sounds DVD two thumbs up as an educational tool for teaching reading skills.
Letter Sounds DVD: http://www.rocknlearn.com/html/letter_sounds.htm#