Ready Readers - Learning Letters

For Parents of Preschoolers

By Kali Slusser, mom, teacher, preschool playdate planner August 31, 2012

As parents who are always looking for ways to give our children any advantage to become more ready for independence, we are all interested in ways to make our preschoolers more ready for their first experiences of school.

As a teacher with years of experience in early literacy and with working with children in the early grades, I am most concerned with my child's readiness for learning how to read. There is a direct correlation of students who are early readers with their future success in school. That being said, I would like to share with fellow parents some simple tricks to get your child engaged in learning early literacy skills.

While many articles will tell you that all you need to do to get your child ready to for Kindergarten is read TO them. I agree with that, as children should LOVE to be read to and LOVE books. Exposure to books with do that! This is much more rudimentary: teaching your child their alphabet.

When I was a student, Kindergarten was ALL about the alphabet. Each day we would learn a new letter, draw and color pictures that had the same initial sound.  Now your kindergartners are expected to learn all 52 letters (upper and lower case) early in the year. They are now expected to apply that new knowledge of letter sounds to begin to sound out CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, like cat, tin, and pit. 

They are also expected to begin to identify the most common 50 sight words (words that cannot be sounded out using conventional rules). Finally, they begin to use their new-found knowledge to begin composing their own sentences.

Firstly, I will tell you that honestly, young children are VERY capable of learning how to read and write at the levels that are expected to in their classrooms. Secondly, children will be even MORE ready if parents take the basic steps to HELP to prepare them for these high expectations.

Here are some simple ways to begin to expose your child to the alphabet.

  • Starting at age 1, begin singing the alphabet song to and with your child.  This is not as difficult for them to learn as you would think. By this time in their lives, they will have become very familiar with the tune, as it is the same tune as the all-time favorite, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
  • Start teaching letters as objects and shapes. Your young toddler can identify animals by name, and letters are the same thing. They have distinguishable shapes and features that will help your child to recognize them.
  • Choose letters that are included in your child's name.
  • Choose letters that are very similar in both upper and lower case (o, s, m, n, p).

Here is how you start introducing letters as shapes. Purchase a set of lower case magnet letters for the fridge. Play with the letters, arrange them, talk about their color, the shapes, (curvy, straight, etc).

Next time you curl up with a good book with your child, choose one of those simple letters (o, s, etc) off of the fridge and have them hold it while you read stories.  Occasionally have them play "I spy" while looking for that letter. Call the letter by name.

Point out the letters that you have exposed them to, in your daily environment (I will NEVER forget the day that my daughter, not even 2 years old yet, shouted out in the car. "Mom, daddy, I see the letter s! Letter S!" She saw it on a sign on some building. A majority of our waking hours are spent as just mommy and Daisy, so I was pleased that my husband was along to witness her brilliance, first hand!   

Soon, as your child starts to learn 10 letter names or so, invest in a letter/ picture chart that you can hang on the wall. Your kid will love their new "toy" and you will love helping them sort the pictures into the pockets.

It is likely that your little one will be able to identify the pictures, but soon they will start to recognize the initial SOUNDS that they hear and they will connect them with the letter names. Early on, kids will start to HEAR the letter sounds in the letter names. "Snake starts with /s/, it sounds like "essss".  

Do you have any fun ways that you help your child to learn their letter names and sounds?