Sing to Read! Letter Names, Letter Sounds, Color Words, Vowels, Contractions, and Punctuation for Emergent Readers
by Deborah L. Ellis, B.S., M.Ed., Reading Specialist
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"Kids who go to Punctuation Station sound so smart when they read and when they write."

Ellis has devised a well-organized, ingenious, and easily accessible method for helping young children learn to read. Her approach involves singing recognizable songs while repeating alphabetical and other language elements. The songs to be used in the learning process are well known children’s ditties with repetitive lyrics and melodies: “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, When She Comes,” “Are You Sleeping, Brother John?,” “The Farmer in the Dell,” and the “Traditional Alphabet Song.”

The first chapter begins with the names of the letters. The students sing the ABC song punctuated with a clap at the end of each line. Both upper and lower case letters are taught by this method. The next letter exercises concentrate on alliteration, another excellent memorization technique. For this segment, Ellis has created tongue twisters and advises her fellow teachers to instruct students to create their own, make them into a 26-page book, and repeat them with the teacher using a system of claps and finger snaps. Examples given by Ellis include “Bob buys big black books” and “John jumped joyfully.” Singing letter sounds to the tune of “Are You Sleeping?” is next. In the chapter on vowel sounds, each vowel is especially emphasized because it has two sounds, taught through various exercises with illustrations (“u” as in “hugging” and “cutie”), and sung to the tune of “Old MacDonald.” Various songs are used to sing words for colors. Contractions and punctuation require more spoken repetition exercises and incorporate further singing.

Ellis is a retired primary reading specialist who composed reading and language arts curricula for two school districts and is listed in various editions of “Who’s Who Among American Teachers.” She has created the “Sing to Read” system to foster language skills among children in the onset of their education. One reason why Ellis’s system is so practical is that since the songs are familiar to most children, and easily learned, they make the material being taught seem equally familiar. A second rationale is that songs and singing allow for different ways for every student to excel, such as by vocal skills, by accurately memorizing, and by successfully repeating the educational materials.

Ellis’s book can serve a dual purpose. It can be used by teachers as a guide for constructing their own materials based on her template, and it can be used as a teaching manual in itself because children can see, sing, and repeat using her examples. She has placed colorful photographs and cartoons throughout the book. Apples, baskets, and castles begin the illustrations on singing and reading the letter sounds, and two pictures accompany each of the vowels in that portion. Such pictorial representations further enhance the memorization process. For example, the sky, the horse, and the tree aid in quickly grasping the words blue, brown, and green. There is no doubt that Ellis’s colorful, simple, and musically themed teaching technique could be a delightful introduction to letters and words for youngsters and a useful tool for anyone teaching a child to read, whether it be a teacher in a kindergarten or first grade setting or a parent or grandparent preparing a child for school.

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