Top Ten Books To Help Kids Learn To Say The "F" Sound
Books are an incredible tool for speech practice. They inherently add a literacy component, create context and help make sessions novel and motivating week to week. Here are my TOP TEN favorite books for working on the lips-to-teeth movement (aka labiodental control) for F (/f/).
When introducing a new movement, my mantra is fewer targets and more repetitions. This means initially I am looking for books with opportunities for a LOT of repetition of a few target words. I am also very mindful of the vowel context - particularly with children who have childhood apraxia of speech. I consider what I call a "speech compass" as I'm selecting targets.
How does the child move to/from a specific position (in this case F/lip-to-teeth contact):
- low vowels (more open mouth sounds)
- high vowels (more closed mouth sounds)
- stretched lips (e.g. for "ee" or /i/) - note this vowel is also a high vowel, so it's a 2-for-1
- round lips sounds (e.g. "o" and "oo")
- and combinations of these movements.
F at the Beginning of Words:
1. Open the Barn Door by Christopher Santoro
Primary Movement Target: F to low vowel (in a CVC) [labiodetal contact to low vowel]
“Open the Barn Door” by Christopher Santoro, is a lovely lift-the-flap where readers find baby animals hidden on the “Farm.” I ignore the R sound in the word, as usually when I'm helping children with /f/ they are not developmentally ready to make the R. The Speech Sound Cue Cards has an especially helpful lip-to-teeth visual cue to draw attention to the movement needed for /f/. If needed you can pair with the lips-together card to show children that they are moving from a F to an M in the word "farm". For children who can handle more targets, other words easily elicited with this book are: find and found.
Open the Barn Door pairs beautifully with Wooden Balancing Block Barnyard by Imagination - simple, no batteries, great opportunities for blocked practice, and with the element of suspense kids love.For this activity, the target would be transitions to and from /f/ to low vowels in the words “fall” and “off”.
2. Find My Feet by Salina Yoon
Primary Movement Target: F to high vowel (in a CVC) [labiodental contact to high vowel]
Find My Feet is an interactive board book, where readers spin a wheel to match the animals to their feet. This book is a great introduction to F because it offers a lot of opportunities to target /f/ to high vowels in the words feet and fit, foot.
(If you want to work on CVCVs, you can target the word “funny” as well.)
There are lots of fun ways to expand on the theme. I love this face/feet animal puzzle. (Unfortunately, I got it a long time ago, and no longer know where it's available). However, any face/feet animal toy will work well. Another fun activity to pair with this book is to make play doh footprints with plastic animals.
3. Who's Hungry? by Dean Hacohen
Primary Movement Target: F to rounded vowel [labiodetal contact to rounded vowel]
“Who's Hungry?” is a sweet lift-the-flap book, where children find food and feed an animal on every page. Perfect for targeting /f/ to rounded vowels in the word “food”. The flaps in this particular book are half the page, and you can use that to your advantage to also practice the word "half" (say "other ___ half___" as a cloze sentence as you read the book).
4. Hooray for Fish by Lucy Cousins
Primary Movement Target: labiodental contact to rounded lips
While we often think of lip rounding and retraction as associated with vowels, these movements apply to consonants as well. Specifically, consonants like SH and CH incorporate lip rounding and can be the transition from F to SH or CH can be particularly tricky for some children. "Fish" is a very functional and common word, and a great target for mastering /f/, but one I start with only once I see a child is ready/can manage. I love warming up with the Melissa and Doug Fish puzzle because it's a great opportunity to practice the word "fin" for children who need extra support before they can handle the transition to round lips.
5. The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt
Movement Target: mixed/variable
“The Foggy Foggy Forest” is an enchanting picture book composed of translucent pages with shadows of various rhyming fairy tale forest creatures which are revealed when the page is turned: e.g. A Little elf sitting by himself, a fairy queen on a trampoline, and more. Great for inferencing, repetitive practice of F. Possible targets: Foggy, Forest, Fairy, Fight, Fair, elF, and with creative narration: Find, Found, Having Fun. The book can be used for a single target practice of the word "for" for children working on F to low vowel transitions, or as a jumping board for multiple targets if a child is ready.
6. Party Animals! by Tali Kellerstein
Movement Target: mixed/variable
Fashion Show Ferret in Party Animals! is about a fashion model ferret who recovers after a little mishap with some help from a friend. The poem is structured so that the word ferret is repeated on every line so the poem functions in the same way as a board book where you can elicit the same word over and over. For children whose speech is more advanced, the poem is composed entirely of words beginning with /f/, so loads of potential targets. The story purposely includes F + a variety of vowels to increase potential movement targets (e.g. F & high vowel: fit, feel; f + low vowel: fall, fan, f + rounded vowel: phone, photo). The pictures in the book can be used in the same way as a wordless picture book whereby children can tell the story from the images and in this way practice their sounds in full sentences and connected speech. This book is great for children across the spectrum of speech sound disorders - from childhood apraxia of speech to phonology - this poem can easily be used for auditory bombardment to articulation.
Story expansion ideas:
- The images from this book are also in the “What’s the Story?" deck, and these can also be used to retell the story.
- Use the F Sound it Card from the What’s that Sound? box for additional phonemic awareness practice (instructions in the deck), or for a quick artic warm-up.
- Check out our ferret video for a craft idea loaded with words to practice the F sound
- Check out our FREE ferret download here.
F at the End of Words:
7. Huff and Puff by Claudia Rueda
Primary Movement Target: mid-height vowels to F (in a CVC) [mid-height vowels to labiodental contact]
Claudia Rueda‘s take on the Three Little Pigs with a twist is excellent for targeting labiodental contact from mid to low vowels. A great array of possible targets include huff, puff, safe, roof, wolf, off, enough! I like the game “Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf” by Tactic Games as a follow-up. The goal of the game is for each player to build a brick house. Along the way, they need to watch out for the wolF who actually can huFF and puFF when squeezed! The game pieces can be used to play the game or for story retell - either way, loads of sound practice opportunities are embedded within.
8. Tough Guys Have Feelings Too by Keith Negley
Primary Movement Target: low or mid-height vowels to F (in a VC or CVC) [low or mid-height vowels to labiodental contact]
This sweet book talks about the feelings of numerous tough guys. The clearest target is the repetition of “tough” on every page, however many other targets can be mined from the images. E.g. feel, fall off (cowboy and horse), fight, food, half (re: the knight’s broken sword), fast. I follow up with this superhero face/feet matching game by Marvel, but it's hard to find now. Melissa & Doug's Make-A-Face Sticker Pad which is more readily available would also pair well with Tough Guys.
9. Is that You Wolf? by Steve Cox
Primary Movement Target: from a rounded vowel to F in a CVC syllable shape.
Is That You Wolf? is a fun touch and feel book where feel whether the texture is the wolf. In addition to lots of opportunities for lip rounding to F the word "wolf", the book is great for descriptive language/adjectives (rough, fuzzy etc.), and of course repetition of the word "feel".
F in the Middle of Words:
10. Woodpecker Wants a Waffle by Steve Breen
Primary Movement Target: F to/from various vowels in multisyllabic words
“Woodpecker Wants a Waffle” by Steve Breen is a sweet story about a Woodpecker’s creative determination to get a waFFle, and great for medial F.
In it, Benny, who we renamed eFFie in session, wants a waFFle after the aroma wafts in from a local caFe. When he tries to enter the caFe, he gets unceremoniously kicked out. “No waFFle for you, EFFie!!” EFFie becomes the lauGHing stock of his animal friends, until he conjures up a great plan that lets him have his waFFle, and eat it too.. with ☕️ coFFee.
Books with medial F targets are tricky to come by. I just ordered Baby Barista: A Coffee Primer for the Youngest Fans! by Joel and Amber Palmer (target: coffee) to add to my collection. I'll let you know what I think when it arrives!
Most of the books above are available on Amazon, this Affiliate Link for the books listed above and more.
Are there books that should have but didn't make the list? I have others I adore so I had to make some hard calls, but would love to see your faves as well!
Author: Tali Kellerstein, SLP
Student Assistant: Nicole Singcay