It’s an exciting time for a child when he starts to notice letters and letter sounds all around him. It’s a door to a new wonderful world of words and books and ideas. When you begin to help a child open this door there are some things you must know. There are three important elements a child must master when learning letters and sounds.
- Letter names
- Letter shapes – connecting the letter symbol to it’s name
- Letter sounds – connecting the letter name and symbol to it’s sound
Learning letter names and connecting those names to symbols or shapes give us and our child a common language for talking about letters. Connecting the sound a letter makes to its symbol is the beginning of decoding, or being able to put sounds together into words.
Where to start
- Teach one letter every day. When you have completed all of the letters, start over and teach them all again. Continue repeating this process. Research shows that quick, repetitive learning is the best way for children to learn their letters and sounds.
- Begin by teaching the letter names. Sing songs like the ABC song. Read alphabet books from the library. There are many wonderful ABC books of all styles out there. At this point, go with simple ones.
- Next begin connecting the names of letters to their symbols. Teach both upper and lower case letters together. Help your child learn the names of the letters in his name. Then expand to the letters in the names of family members, friends or pets. Help your child look for letters he knows on signs, in books or anywhere there is print. Continue to explore ABC books.
- After teaching the names of the letters and their symbols, it is time to teach the sounds of the letters. At this point teach the short vowel sounds for the vowels. Later on when your child has a handle on the letter sounds you will begin teaching combinations of letters that work together to make other sounds. This is the point where teaching long vowel sounds is appropriate.
Look for words that begin with the letter you’re working on. Say the word and have your child see if it makes the right sound. Read more ABC books, this time focusing on the pictures that correlate with each letter. Try helping your child make his own ABC book. Draw or cut out pictures that go with each letter. You could even take photographs of people or objects that have special meaning to your child. Your child can have fun practicing his letter sounds by reading his own ABC book.