Learning the alphabet is one milestone that we tend to mark as an indication of a child's successful entry into the world of reading. A child who can name all the letters in the alphabet by the end of kindergarten will be equipped with an important foundational stepping stone toward recognizing sounds and printed words. It is important, however, to understand that at this age learning the letters is just one of many prereading skills that are important for your child to acquire.
When you do focus on the alphabet, make sure that your child is learning letters in meaningful ways and not just engaged in isolated memory tasks. Begin with uppercase letters, as they are most often easier for children to recognize. Here are three ways to help your child get familiar with her ABCs:
- Look for letters every day. There are many ways that you can examine letters with your child in the context of your daily routines and experiences. Observe your child as she engages in the world around her. Does she notice particular signs and logos, such as "exit" signs, public restroom signs, restaurant logos, and so on? You can take these opportunities to point out and name letters with your child.
- “I know my name.” Help your child learn to identify her own name and the letters that spell it. Begin by showing your child her whole name in functional ways. You might put name labels on her backpack or lunchbox or inside the covers of favorite books.
- Practice magnetic learning. Once your child has a small bank of letters she can easily recognize (based on those letters in her name and on those she can pick out from her environment), you can expand her letter knowledge by playing with magnetic letters on the refrigerator. Writing the names of other family members and by spelling simple words is great practice, especially when your child wants to communicate something in writing.