Teaching your child the alphabet

One of the first steps in becoming a successful reader is to learn to recognize the letters of the alphabet. The alphabetic principle teaches that spoken language is represented by written words that are made up of varying combinations of letters, and that these letters and combinations of them make up all of the sounds in spoken language. Attaching sounds to these letters and learning to write them paves the way to successful reading and writing.

Learning to say their ABCs is a great start for any preschooler, but it is just as important for your child to learn the sounds of the letters. Preschoolers, who know the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, have an easier time learning to read.

In order to read, every child must know the sounds of the letters as well as the shapes and order. More than that he must be able to recall them quickly. When he sees the letter he should be able to say the letter or vocalize its sound without hesitation. This should happen whether he hears the letters in order or not.

While the alphabet song can be a fun way to start learning the ABCs it is not enough because children also need to be able to identify each individual letter. In fact, this skill is much more important than knowing where it falls in the alphabet as it is the key in learning to read.

Research shows it is important for young children to be able to:

~ Recognize and name letters
~ Recognize beginning letters in familiar words (especially their own name)
~ Recognize both capital and lowercase letters
~ Relate letters to the specific sounds they represent

Knowledge of the alphabet is the foundation to your child’s literacy development and you shouldn’t assume your child will learn this skill in kindergarten. Waiting until kindergarten to learn the ABCs will put your child behind many other students and may cause added stress.

Children who can read independently “translate” alphabet shapes accurately back into sounds. If we want our children to be able to read independently, we needed to teach them:

~ The shapes of the alphabet letters;
~ The various sounds of each letter;
~ The sounds made by combined letters.

You can start teaching the alphabet when your child is young. My son mastered his letters by his second birthday and I helped him do that without flashcards and without whining! He loves working with his “letters” and even now as he approaches his fourth birthday requests a particular game or activity. He doesn’t know he’s learning-he just thinks he’s having fun with his Mommy.

There are many ways that you can help your preschooler learn the sounds and names of the letters of the alphabet.

You don’t need expensive tools and programs and in fact many of those can be counterproductive as they make learning work. My greatest success was simply to work on letters in context with the world whenever he seemed open to the opportunity. The alphabet became simply a part of our daily life including errands and play time.

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