Letter Learning

Learning the names of alphabet letters – like all early learning – is best done in the context of what is meaningful to young children.

Many children first learn the initial letter of their own name, which has a great deal of meaning and importance to them. For the child who loves jello, J may be an important letter, while the child who knows that Daddy works at the Texaco station may begin to notice the letter T.

Some children learn to read without knowing the names of letters or the sounds associated with them. But research shows that for most children, associating names and sounds with the alphabet comes before conventional reading.

However, this finding does not mean that letter names should be drilled into young children. There are far more effective and enjoyable ways for children to learn about letters. For instance, children enjoy labeling items that they choose. Sound out the name of the object together to determine which initial letter to use, then cut out big letters from magazines or newspapers and invite the child to tape them on items that she wants labeled.

At home or out together, point out letters and words that are likely to be of special interest to your child. Try simple activities such as reading logos of favorite foods and stores, identifying street signs, writing grocery lists together, and playing with magnetic letters on the refrigerator door while singing the alphabet song. Remember, children learn through play!

Family Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs

National Education for the Education of Young Children
Deborah Diffily and Kathy Morrison, editors; 1996; pg. 61.