Recognizing letters is the first step to reading and is the foundation for your child’s education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, kindergarteners who are already familiar with letter names typically find it easier to learn to read compared to kids who don’t recognize letters when they start kindergarten. To help your child learn to read faster, you can use a few proven strategies that will increase their letter recognition.
Knowledge of letters and the alphabet
Research has shown that one of the best predictors of reading achievement for first-year readers is their ability to identify both upper and lower case letters. For younger children, you can begin by reading aloud to your child every day and providing letters to play with, such as letter puzzles or magnetic letters that stick to the refrigerator.
Make sure that your child is in the right mood to learn since a tired, grumpy, or hungry child will likely not be willing to focus on letters. Consonants should be introduced first, since they are typically easier for children to learn and are more consistent in the sounds they make compared to vowels, which can change their sounds depending on the word. Try to keep a steady pace when teaching letters to your child, while making sure the pace is not too slow.
One tried and true method is to teach only one or a few letters at a time so your child does not get confused, and move on only when your child indicates readiness. Provide your child with numerous opportunities to practice recognizing letters, writing letters if they are ready, and understanding how letters make sounds to form words. Sound games and word games are excellent tools to help a child learn to recognize letters.
The U.S. Department of Education also recommends:
- Giving your child blocks or plastic alphabet tiles, and encouraging him or her to spell familiar names or favorite words.
- Emphasizing the different sounds letters make.
- Practicing writing letters with your child.
- Encouraging your child to experiment and play with letters to become more familiar with them.
- Making learning about letters fun by playing games.
- If your child is already familiar with letters by kindergarten, he or she will have an easier time learning to read.
- Your child’s ability to recognize upper and lower case letters is a strong predictor of his or her reading achievement.
- Encourage your child to become more familiar with letters by providing plenty of opportunities for practice and maintaining a consistent pace.
- Consonants are typically easier for children to learn and should be taught first.
Another great idea is to use shaving cream to help them recognize and even practice writing their letters. Just put some on a paper plate and have fun! They love the hands on learning. Just use your finger to write different letters to check for recognition. Once they are a little older, they can start writing them on their own. 🙂
I actually used shaving cream when I taught third grade to practice writing spelling words and they loved it. My two and four year old love doing this as well!
We started practicing/recognition of letters between 1 1/2 and 2 years with my older son. We bought the foam bath letters and practiced during bath time! We would do a few letters at a time. Even though he couldn’t say all the letters, he could point them out when we asked him. It was a great time to do it because he was contained and focused! I feel as though Ben knew his all of the letters and could sing the ABC’s very early thanks to doing this in my opinion. We are now starting this with our 20 month old. We’ll see how it goes!
I LOVE the idea of learning letters (or anything) during bath time! Bath time is my husband’s job. Just the other day, my husband started asking my son where different body parts were and he was pointing them out correctly. I was completely surprised because I haven’t been teaching him that. My husband has been going over that stuff during bath time! So I think I’ll get the foam letters and have him start to introduce a few at a time soon!
It sounds like our daughter is on the right track, but what about songs associated with letters and the sounds they make? My daughter comes home from school often singing songs about letter sounds. She also has been singing a song from spanish class with a phrase in English repeated by the same phrase in Spanish. Is this a good way to actually learn the material? We all know the ABC’s and most commonly from the song, but if asked to start from anywhere other than the beginning, many of us may have trouble with it. Does the incorporation of songs or rhymes make the learning more conceptual versus plain old rote memorization?
My son’s class uses music in the same way and I think it has really helped him learn basic concepts of letter sounds, vowels, and even counting by 5’s and 10’s. I am a big fan of memorization through music, although I can’t say that I know what the scientific research says. I even sang our address and phone number to the tune of “Happy Birthday” and my boys learned them much more quickly than if I had just tried to teach them by rote memorization!