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November 8, 2004
Parents know the value of learning the alphabet. They recognize that early experiences with letters are an important step toward reading. Still, many parents have questions about taking that step.
When introducing your child to the alphabet, begin with familiar things. Start with your child's name. This builds upon her sense of self-confidence. As she gets better at recognizing her name, encourage her to see the likeness between letters in his name and letters in other names and words. Find other words that start with the same letter as her name, like Sharon and stop.
Create a situation in which your child can understand how the alphabet works, and how it relates to reading and writing. Books can introduce the alphabet. They show the alphabet is made up of a group of letters with different names and shapes. Your child can see and hear all the letters and their different names.
Magazine or catalog pictures can also help your child learn the alphabet. They help him connect letters to what she sees in the pictures. You and your child can make an alphabet together. The contents should be about one idea such as plants and seeds (the A page features apples, the B pages shows beans, etc.) Making connections between concepts and letters in the alphabet will help your child make the connections between ideas and words.
Writing is one important aspect of teaching the alphabet. Provide opportunities for your child to express herself through writing. For young children, writing can be as simple as scribble marks, a drawing, or some marks that look like a letter. It does not mean handwriting or copying letters from other print.
Children make connections between print and the spoken word when writing. This allows your child to recreate what was experienced in a story or other print. By using print to communicate thoughts and ideas, children will see the purpose of writing. They learn how print, letters and reading are related.
Give your child opportunities to write or trace letters using his sense of touch. Side by side, look and trace the shapes of letters in alphabet books. Paper and a variety of writing tools make it fun. Try using crayons, pencils, markers, or pens. Individual alphabet shapes in puzzles allows the fingers to feel the shape of letters. Finger-painting is another fun way to form letters.
There are many ways to help young children learn the alphabet. Parents should choose ways the child finds enjoyable. This will help to make the child comfortable with the activity. Try touching letters in alphabet books, reading short story books, or find letters in other print. These all help expose your child to print. Just talking about the meanings of words can create a setting for presenting the alphabet. Be sure to adopt a playful approach that builds on your child's interest.
You can help him learn about the alphabet. Take an important step toward reading and writing, together.
Based on the Internet article, "Teaching the Alphabet to Young Children," by Barbara Wasik in the NAEYC journal, Young Children , Vol. 56/Num.1/Pg.34-40, January 2001.