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Ready to Read:  Letter Knowledge
Here's a short video about letter knowledge, including suggestions on how to share this important early literacy skill with children.   To view, click the PLAY button on the left (arrow pointing right).

Letter Knowledge

Letter knowledge is when children understand that letters are different from each other, that the same letter can be written different ways, that letters have names, and that letters relate to specific sounds.  Research shows that letter knowledge is the most important skill in terms of predicting a child's success learning to read.  Most children are ready to recognize letters by sight before they are ready to translate them into sounds.

Our language, English, requires children to decode words by making connections between the printed word  (called graphemes) and units of sound (called phonemes).  Reading and writing are correlated - writing reverses this process, we learn to translate the sounds of words (phonemes) into written words (graphemes).

If a child cannot recognize the differences between letters, reading becomes difficult and frustrating.  They will struggle translating those letters to sounds.  While related to phonological awareness, recognizing and understanding letters is a distinctly different skill.

Children appear to acquire letter knowledge in a sequence that begins with letter names, than letter shapes, and finally letter sounds.  Knowing the names and sounds of letters helps children figure out how to say written words. To help develop letter knowledge:

bulletYoung children usually learn the letters in their name first. They are their favorite letters! Write your child’s name where he or she can see it often and have them write their names in their own way.
bulletSing the alphabet song together and play with rhymes.
bulletLet your child play with blocks that have letters on them, magnetic letters, and read alphabet books together.
bulletPoint out and name letters when reading books, signs or labels.
bulletPlay “I Spy” with letters in the car. Older children can find the letters in order from A to Z in license plates and signs.
bulletEncourage your child to make letters with clay, wet spaghetti noodles, or form the shapes with their bodies or other objects.
bulletWrite words that interest your child (like dinosaur, truck, or mom) using crayons or magnetic letters.
bulletRecognize that children learn letter-sound relationships at different rates. Avoid “drilling” children on letters. Have fun with it.
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