When my daughter was a toddler, I got into the routine of reciting a letter sounds song to her at bedtime. By hearing all the letter sounds regularly, she built a strong foundation in phonics and now has an easy time learning to read.
The letter sounds song here covers the letter sounds as completely as possible, skipping only the silent variations (like silent final E) and the blends that happen when some letters influence the pronunciation of others (like r-controlled vowels). We often skipped the schwa sounds, the American Spanish sound of j, the second sounds of qu and z, and the second and third sounds of x. However, I included them below just to be complete. The sections we skip are marked with italics.
Each night, my daughter used to chime in with a word or two that matched the letter that I was reciting. Usually, by the time we got to z, she would be fast asleep. The exercise helped me practice my knowledge of the letter sounds, especially the vowel sounds which can have a lot of variations.
To use the lyrics below, the main thing to note is that every letter or letter-diacritic combination between two slashes represents a sound. For example, /ā/ represents the long a sound, a, where a says its name. If you’re unfamiliar with a sound between the slashes, simply skip ahead to the example of the unknown sound and learn it through the example. I hope to make an audio or video recording of this script in the future to make it easier for others to learn.
Here’s our bedtime letter sounds song:
A makes three sounds /ă/, /ā/, /ä/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- A says /ă/ like the /ă/ in apple.
- A says /ā/ like the /ā/ in ape.
- A says /ä/ like the /ä/ in aha.
- A says /ə/ like the /ə/ in about.
B makes one sound /b/.
- B says /b/ like the /b/ in ball.
C makes two sounds /k/ and /s/.
- C says /k/ like the /k/ in cat.
- C says /s/ like the /s/ in city.
D makes one sound /d/.
- D says /d/ like the /d/ in dog.
E makes two sounds /ĕ/ and /ē/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- E says /ĕ/ like the /ĕ/ in egg.
- E says /ē/ like the /ē/ in eve.
- E says /ə/ like the /ə/ in the.
F makes one sound /f/.
- F says /f/ like the /f/ in fish.
G makes two sounds /g/ and /j/.
- G says /g/ like the /g/ in gorilla.
- G says /j/ like the /j/ in gerbil.
H makes one sound /h/.
- H says /h/ like the /h/ in hello.
I makes four sounds /ĭ/, /ī/, /ē/ and /y/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- I says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in igloo.
- I says /ī/ like the /ī/ in ice
- I says /ē/ like the /ē/ in radio.
- I says /y/ like the /y/ in onion.
- I says /ə/ like the /ə/ in centipede.
J mostly makes one sound /j/. In American Spanish words, J says /h/.
- J usually says /j/ like the /j/ in jam.
- J says /h/ like the /h/ in fajita.
K makes one sound /k/.
- K says /k/ like the /k/ in kite.
L makes one sound /l/.
- L says /l/ like the /l/ in lamb.
M makes one sound /m/.
- M says /m/ like the /m/ in mommy.
N makes one sound /n/.
- N says /n/ like the /n/ in nest.
O makes four sounds /ŏ/, /ō/, /ōō/ and /ŭ/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- O says /ŏ/ like the /ŏ/ in ox.
- O says /ō/ like the /ō/ in oval.
- O says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in womb.
- O says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in son.
- O says /ə/ like the /ə/ in carrot.
P makes one sound /p/.
- P says /p/ like the /p/ in pig.
Qu mostly makes one sound /kw/. It can also make another sound, /k/.
- Qu says /kw/ like the /kw/ in quilt.
- Qu says /k/ like the /k/ in bouquet.
R makes one sound /r/.
- R says /r/ like the /r/ in rabbit.
S makes two sounds /s/ and /z/.
- S says /s/ like the /s/ in sun.
- S says /z/ like the /z/ in is.
T makes one sound /t/.
- T says /t/ like the /t/ in tiger.
U makes four sounds /ŭ/, /ū/, /ōō/ and /ŏŏ/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- U says /ŭ/ like the /ŭ/ in up.
- U says /ū/ like the /ū/ in uniform.
- U says /ōō/ like the /ōō/ in brutal.
- U says /ŏŏ/ like the /ŏŏ/ in put.
- U says /ə/ like the /ə/ in supply.
V makes one sound /v/.
- V says /v/ like the /v/ in van.
W makes one sound /w/.
- W says /w/ like the /w/ in worm.
X mostly makes one sound /ks/. It also makes another sound /z/.
- X says /ks/ like the /ks/ in box.
- X says /z/ like the /z/ in xylophone.
Y makes four sounds /y/, /ĭ/, /ī/ and /ē/. Plus, makes the schwa sound /ə/ when unstressed.
- Y says /y/ like the /y/ in yak.
- Y says /ĭ/ like the /ĭ/ in gym.
- Y says /ī/ like the /ī/ in cry.
- Y says /ē/ like the /ē/ in puppy.
- Y says /ə/ like the /ə/ in vinyl.
Z mostly makes one sound /z/. It also makes another sound /zh/.
- Z says /z/ like the /z/ in zebra.
- Z says /zh/ like the /zh/ in azure.
Now you’ve heard the letter sounds. Keep on practicing. Once you know these letter sounds, you can learn to read.