Updated: Jan 5, 2021
For almost two decades I’ve stood in the back of classrooms in various positions, often as a para educator, sometimes as a teacher’s aide, and lately as a teacher’s assistant. Often, I noticed that some students didn’t understand a concept presented to the entire group. I always felt that my super skill was to notice a gap in understanding and fill it in the way a particular child could understand.
This skill became very important to me when two of my own children had learning difficulties. The pain I felt for them as they tried to manage their day but couldn’t, was immense. It was a very difficult struggle for our family that involved private tutors, therapies, 504s, IEPs, medications, incorrect and conflicting diagnoses, and eventually homeschooling.
About five years ago I had a little boy in one of my classes whose difficulties reminded me of my own children’s reading problems. I felt so bad for the journey his family was going to need to take to even get the letter sounds connected in his mind. I realized his family did not have the resources they needed to help him.
I pondered and prayed about this problem. I remembered that one of my little ones knew all 150 Pokémon and their powers but couldn’t remember the 26 letters and sounds of the alphabet. I wondered what kind of pictorial representation of sound would help this little guy whose difficulties seemed much like my own children's experiences. It seemed to me that the endless repetition of flash cards was not helping him very much.
One day on a long drive alone, some of the words to “What’s That Sound?” came to me in a song form. “Letters have a NAME. Letters represent SOUND. I felt in my soul that was an answer! I grabbed my phone and recorded the little song.
I thought about the song for weeks. I realized no one specifically tells a child that letters on paper represent a spoken sound. It is a simple but necessary leap of understanding that most kids can connect, but not all. I began working on what eventually became the book in every spare moment. I even started waking up at 4 am to get a few hours extra before my school day started! That is pretty miraculous too!
Think about it. We teach preschoolers to sing the ABC song and are pleased that they can repeat it. Then we read ABC books that usually start with, “A apple, B ball, etc. Do any books specifically teach that letters have a NAME and represent a SOUND? Flash cards are boring? Does anyone love doing that? "What's That Sound?" is an alternative to flash card practice.
“What’s That Sound?” is designed to be interactive. It is set up for self-study after an initial read with a child. It almost magically fills in the needed gaps of understanding of phonemic awareness a little at a time. Children can look and learn at their own pace. I hope you will try it with your little “soon-to-be readers”! It will make a difference!