“Children learn alphabet letters most readily when the letters appear in meaningful settings. Picture displays with the words carefully printed next to them help children associate letters with something memorable.” Neuman, et. al. (2000) Learning To Read And Write
Letter knowledge is the ability to name letters, notice the difference between letters and identify letters quickly. It is essential to developing the skills needed for reading and writing success. Young children need to learn the names of uppercase and lowercase letters in order to eventually master the alphabetic principle, which involves the understanding that each letter represents a sound and that letters that are written make up words. Many children are introduced to the letters of the alphabet by singing the alphabet song, but that does not link to meaningful learning. In fact, singing the alphabet song is rote learning and never becomes truly meaningful. It is the job of early childhood educators to provide children with fun, engaging activities that allow them to see and manipulate the letters of the alphabet in meaningful ways. One of the best places to start is with a child’s name. When children learn to recognize their name in print, the letters become meaningful because they are “a part of them.” By extending that learning to learning the letters in the names of their friends, they are able to share their new knowledge with their peers. Overall it is important to remember that learning letters in context connects children’s learning to long term memory. Research also exists to support that children should be exposed to a small group of letters at a time – after all, we only have two “one letter” words in the English language – a and I. This means that by focusing on clusters of letters, we are exposing children to several letters at a time – the same way they will encounter them when they learn to read. As educators, our role is to expose children to alphabet activities, games, print, and modeled writing that allow them to share their knowledge of letter shapes, names, and sounds.