Focus: using initial letters
What is 3 Yellow?
3 Yellow readers make the sound of the first letter and look at the picture for something that matches the sound and that makes sense.
At this level, your child will begin to “decode” words using the first letter only. They are not sounding out entire words. When coming to the one new word on each page, your child will first produce the sound of (or get their mouth into the ready position for) the initial consonant. They will then scan the picture for clues to determine the main idea that starts with that letter sound. Your child is developing the active reading and thinking habits essential for strong reading comprehension skills.
I can put my mouth in position to make the first letter sound of the new word on each page.
I can say a word that matches its first letter sound and makes sense with the picture.
What Makes Yellow Books Unique?
In Yellow books, the sentence is the same on every page except for one word that changes to reflect the main idea of the picture. To support 3Y readers, the word that changes on each page typically starts with a consonant sound. Children read the same Yellow books for each of the 1Y, 2Y, and 3Y levels but work on a new reading skill at each level.
- 1Y: Use the sentence pattern and pictures to “read” the book.
- 2Y: Point to each word as they say it.
- 3Y: Sound the first letter of the new word on each page.
Try reading this sample 3Y book
Read the title, the author’s name, and the first page or two to your child while modeling the following sequence: Point to every word as you read it aloud. When you get to the one new word on the page, stop and make the sound of the first letter. Look for something in the picture that starts with that sound and makes sense, then say the word. For example, “This one rides in the /d/, /d/, dirt.” Point to the dirt in the picture as you say the word dirt.
Ask your child to try reading the rest of the book. When she gets to the new word say, “Get your mouth ready for that letter.” Look at your child’s mouth to see if she is ready to say something that starts with that letter. Then ask, “What starts with that sound and makes sense?”
Ultimately you want your child to self-prompt to use the initial letter sound to help figure out the word in the picture. In the beginning, some children might benefit from your prompts, such as “What letter does that word start with?” or “What sound does that letter make?” or “Do you see anything in the picture that starts with that sound?”
Vowels pose extra complexity due to the many different sounds they make in the English language. We avoid vowels at this stage because it can actually slow down your child’s progress. Don’t worry—they’ll come soon enough!
Confusing b and d, p and q, or m and w? It’s extremely common for children to confuse these letters, and no, you do not need to rush your child off to be evaluated for dyslexia! The developmental reason is that visual memory trails auditory memory. This “problem” typically corrects itself by the time a child is 8 years old. In the meantime, just immediately—and positively—correct your child by telling them the correct letter; avoid fixating on it. With more practice, visual discrimination will come naturally for most children.
Watch for a very cool thing to happen. As your child practices over and over with the Yellow books and logs time pointing to all the words, they will gradually begin to automatically recognize some of the most frequently used words in the repeating sentence stems (e.g., the, are, can, is, this). Yes, they’ll start reading words. Lavish your child with some extra praise as they take another big step in learning to read.
What Mistakes Should I Correct?
Make sure your child is saying the repeating sentence stem verbatim.
Make sure the one new word on each page makes sense, regardless of what the word actually is.
Make sure the word your child supplies for the one new word on each page starts with the first letter sound of the word on the page. Only correct if the letter sound doesn’t match (don’t worry about the rest of the word) and/or if the word doesn’t make sense.
When to Move to the Next Level
Once your child has mastered consonant letter sounds and can self-prompt to use the first letter of words to help figure out what is in the picture, she is nearly ready for 1 Green. She’ll also need to recognize at least 25 high-frequency words—or Power Words—outside the context of what will have likely become the memorized Yellow books. It’s time to remove the training wheels of the repeating sentence stem. Your child is ready for 1 Green.
Watch these videos to see what successful reading practices look like and how to coach a child when they get stuck or make mistakes.
what if my child is struggling
Learning all the letter sounds can take some time. While in the car or around the house, here are some activities to help practice initial consonant sounds.
Use the Letter Sound Books, entire books dedicated to each consonant letter.
Sing the Alphabet Song and stop at a random letter. See how many things you can name (or see) that start with that letter.
Play “I Spy” with these extras:
- If she says, “I spy with my little eye a tree,” then ask her, “What letter does ‘tree’ start with?”
- Play “I spy with my little eye something that begins with f.” Take turns choosing the letter and spying objects that start with that letter.
Play with magnetic letters or letter blocks, using their sounds, not their names.
With your child’s help, fill a big bowl with 10 things you can find around the house that start with a given letter. Do a different letter every few days.
Get your pencils out. Writing is a great way for children to associate initial letter sounds with words. Have your child help make a shopping list by writing the first letter of each word on the list.
Use index cards or Post-its and label objects around your home. Ask your child to find objects using the first letter sounds. Turn it into a game like Hide and Seek to find words that start with certain letters.
Revisit the coaching tips for 1Y and 2Y, and don’t forget the bedtime story of your child’s choosing.
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