We’ve all heard the phrase “Silence is golden.” Well if that’s true, then the most golden letter of them all has to be silent E!
We often see E at the end of the word, but we don’t pronounce it. That’s silent E. But silent E does more than sit around the ends of words like a bump on a log. It changes whatever vowel comes earlier in the word. The preceding vowel changes from a “short” vowel sound to a “long” vowel sound (meaning the vowel is pronounced as its own name). Here are examples of silent E changing short vowel sounds into the long sounds:
- Hop ⇨ hope
- Kit ⇨ kite
- Can ⇨ cane
- Cod ⇨ code
We grownups read these words without thinking about it. But for kids, this change can really trip them up. So, how to teach silent E? I often describe it to my students with a cute story, like this. “Vowels like to be the most important letter in the word. When silent E shows up, the first vowel wants to let E know that they’re the boss, so they shout their name.” We practice shouting the long vowel sounds together. (Kids love a good excuse to yell.) And then we practice with a few sample silent E words. I stick to words they know the meaning of, like rope, cake, and made.
After that, it’s just a question of practice. But before you pull out the worksheets and flashcards, consider snuggling up on the couch with your child and some good books instead. Below are some awesome picture books that help parents teach silent E and kids practice reading it. Snag some of these, or keep an eye out during story time for silent E words to point out in the books you already have. (Bonus: Print and make our easy Cake in a Cup Read with Me Recipe for more practice with silent E.)
The Mighty Silent E
by Kimberlee Gard, illustrated by Sandie Sonke
This book is THE book to help your child learn about silent E. It focuses on little E, a letter in elementary school who is waiting for his day to shine. None of the other letters take much notice of him, until the day he doesn’t show up to school and suddenly there are so many words that can’t be spelled! The story allows your child to read incomplete words and decipher what they would be with a silent E added. It’s funny, informative, and a great way to practice this vital reading skill.
Stick and Stone
by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
I adore this book for helping kids practice reading silent E. It’s so perfect for this—without even trying to be. It’s easy to read, with short sentences and vocabulary that children know or can quickly grasp. There are lots of silent E words throughout the book, including, stone, alone, and cone. Plus, the story about the friendship blossoming between a stick and a stone is adorable and shows kids how to stand up for those you love.
This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome
Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a piece of rope and how it’s used for three generations in one family. The word rope appears on every page, allowing children to practice repeatedly reading silent E without the use of flashcards or drills. Exposing a child to a word multiple times helps them to engage with the phonetic concept more fully and commit it to memory. This is the Rope is a great place to start.
by bell hooks, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
In this book, your child will find silent E all over the place. There is at least one word containing a silent E on almost every single page. (There are even a couple of sneaky compound words, like “homemade.”) Your child will be able to practice reading a variety of words, while being swept up in a relatable story about a little girl who loves her family and learns that everyone makes mistakes. The pictures are bright, the story is sweet, and the silent Es are plentiful!
by Rowboat Watkins
Cake has got to be the best silent E word in the world. Well, unless it’s this cake, that is. The very rude cake that stars in this funny picture book is not so great at all. However, the opportunity for your child to practice reading silent E words over and over again—while learning manners, too, and giggling over silly illustrations—means that this book is still a sweet treat. (Kid loves laughs? Check out these 10 funny books for kids, then read about why funny books for kids make smart choices.)
Hurry Kate, or You’ll Be Late!
by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Tiffany Rose
Due for release in April of 2023, this book has enough silent Es to make me want to click “preorder!” Here are the outlines of this upcoming release: Kate is on her way to her first day of preschool and she’s running late. But it’s not her fault. It’s surely not because of her strict wishes for styling her afro puffs, or how many cars and trucks she stops and waves to on the way, or how many neighbors she says hello to. Surely she’s running late because of the very long hug her daddy gave her. Your child will get to practice reading silent E as they relate to Kate’s tale, and maybe then they’ll even recognize it in their name or that of someone they know!
written and illustrated by Bob Barner
Dem Bones is such a great choice for learning about silent E because it has so many things going for it! For starters, the word bone is used repeatedly, giving your child the chance to commit it to memory and practice the letter pattern. Secondly, the book’s main text is the lyrics to the song “Dem Bones.” Adding music and rhythm to lessons allows children to absorb and remember things more quickly. Lastly, each page has a box discussing a different bone and how it works in human anatomy. So much good stuff in such a small book!
Tree of Cranes
written and illustrated by Allen Say
This is the beautiful story of a young boy in Japan learning about Christmas from his mother, who grew up in California. Lacking traditional Western Christmas ornaments, they decorate their tree with paper cranes. While most of the books on this list are relatively short with simple sentences that allow young readers to practice somewhat independently, Tree of Cranes differs in that it’s a slightly longer tale with more complex sentences. This offers a great opportunity for you to read to your child, allowing them to relax into story time while you still help them learn silent E. When you run across one of the many silent E words as you read, pause and point to it. Invite your child to read that word aloud. Your child will feel included without it feeling laborious.
Do you have any favorite books that are great for practicing silent E? Connect on social and let us know!