The Alphabet is the foundation of reading. Many studies show that without Alphabet knowledge, no one can learn to read or write.
Children who interact with Alphabet books and activities that match letters with letter sounds will begin to use letter names as a clue to letter-sound correspondence. For example, the letter name for D is “dee,” and it makes the sound /d/. There is some exception to the rules, for example, C, G, H, W, and others may not have helpful clues, but overall, the Alphabet is one of the strong predictors of success in reading. According to researchers, children who do not have a firm knowledge of the letters and sounds will have difficulty with all other aspects of early literacy. For example, children in most schools learn sight words. Sight words, often called high-frequency words, are those words that, in most instances, are memorized by sight. Young children recognize these words in print without having to use their phonetic skills to decode them. Much of early reading involves using Sight Words, but by the child reaches the First Grade, they begin to read about a wide range of topics that include many more than Sight Words. The child needs the phonetic foundation to decipher new words as they encounter them in their daily reading.
Learning Alphabet letters and connecting the sounds with the letters is critical because our entire written language is the combination of letters in the Alphabet. In addition, every letter of the Alphabet represents a sound in the spoken language, which allows us to create words through various letter sounds.
(Yopp & Yopp, 2009) describes the written language as a complex symbol system that children have to practice for many years to become proficient.
How do we teach the Alphabet?
Teaching the Alphabet to the child in isolation may not be fruitful. It is best to use various approaches that encourage understanding than having the child learn by memorizing and not making any meaningful connection. Students who are at the emergent stage of reading and writing need explicit, consistent instruction around the Alphabet and sounds beginning with their names and other words they see often. The following are a few examples that will encourage Alphabet knowledge and Phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and recognize the different parts of a spoken word. Phonological awareness is about the sound we hear and speak, not about the print we see.
- Read Alphabet Books.
- Point out letters and print in the environment.
- Talk about letters and sounds as you see them in your everyday activities, such as the market, at the mall.
- Provide opportunities to play with letters, for example, block letters and magnetic letters. There is a wide range of letter games on the market, or you can design your own.
- Model and emphasize sounds and letters when reading to the child.
- Show a letter and have the child give the sound.
- Give a sound and have the child show the letter.
- Use the child’s names.
- Listening to rhyming words helps to acquire phonological awareness.
Phonological Awareness and Letter Knowledge
Listening to rhyming words requires the child to identify two words ending with the same sound.
Listening to Alliteration also builds phonological awareness. Alliteration needs the child to listen for two words beginning with the same sounds. A more involved level of phonological awareness is listening for syllables in words. You can start by having the child listen for the syllables in their name. Some terms contain only one, while others have multiple syllables. Teachers usually teach children by having them clap on the syllables. For example, “bat” has one syllable, while “alligator has four, al-li-ga-tor.
Children enter the primary grades with different levels of knowledge and abilities. Their progress depends on their earlier experience. Some will be already reading while others may know some letters of the Alphabet. Teachers must design instruction to meet the varying needs of each child and help them make continuous progress. Many children struggle to bridge the gap with their peers, but parents can play a dynamic role by providing materials at home, providing extra practice. Parents can help build the child’s fluency in the Alphabet Knowledge and Sight Words and help them step into reading with educational materials that are fun and engaging.
When choosing a book for your child, do not only focus on the Alphabet. Would you please select a book that offers more than just the letters of the Alphabet? Choose one that will expose the child to some Sight Words as well as reading. Children learn to read well while listening to others read. Read to your child, and pretty soon, the child will be reading independently. Parents who are not familiar with Early Learning strategies and activities must connect with the child’s teacher, who is the best resource.