Grow a Reader: Letter Knowledge
By Bridget Harvey
Kate, a very young kindergartner, came home from school one day and asked, “What’s an ‘elementoe’?” Her mother was a bit confused and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kate continued with a child’s sense of desperation, “You know when you’re going over it, over the chalkboard, when you sing that song.” Kate knew that whatever an “elementoe” was, it was important, and she was right!
Many of us learned the alphabet by singing the “ABC Song.” Some of us knew the song so early in our lives that we assume we just always knew the ABCs. Others credit mothers, siblings, and teachers for teaching them the alphabet and have fond memories of not only singing, but playing with alphabet blocks, flash cards, watching Sesame Street, and bringing items for Show and Tell on “letter days” at school.
At the CRRL, Grow A Reader Classes happen often with staff who know the value of Letter Knowledge. We know that while we love to sing the ABC Song, Letter Knowledge goes beyond the song. It “enables a child to recognize all the letters of the alphabet, in both capital letter and lowercase form, and to know the names and sounds of each.”
Preschoolers are eager to learn their letters and can do so in such a way that it all seems like play. It’s also good to remember that all this learning can take place at the child’s personal pace. Slow it down to know that an “elementoe” is actually five individual letters with their own sounds.
Here are some more fun ways to experience Letter Knowledge:
- Help babies and toddlers see the differences in shapes. Research shows this is a precursor to seeing shapes of letters. Explore objects like “this round, red ball” and “the blue, square block.”
- Play “I Spy” when you read a book. Ask your child to look for the first letter of his or her name. When you see it, say, “I spy with my little eye, the letter H for Hannah.” If Hannah already knows her letter, play the game with the sound of the letter H.
- Read an alphabet book with a story.
- Name letters and their sounds based on things you see and do throughout the day. For example, at bath time say, “Bath starts with B; bath, body, bubbles, baby," etc.
- Play with magnetic letters on the fridge or use playdough to make letters. You can also draw letters in the air with your finger.