Alphabet Learning Means So Much More Than Meets The Eye

There are many specific skills that contribute to alphabet  learning.

What does knowledge of the alphabet mean?  What does reading readiness mean? 

It means:

  • Being able to recite it by rote
  • Recognizing each of the letters
  • Being able to call each letter by name, regardless of its position in a word...instantly!
  • Recognizing that each letter has an upper case and lower case form...
    that the letter name doesn't change because of it.
  • Recognizing the letters in differing fonts
  • Being able to copy those forms on paper with a pencil...from a model...
    and later, from memory.

It also means:

  • Understanding that a page has lines, a top and a bottom, with left and right sides.
  • Understanding that letters in combination with others form words.

The more your child has been exposed to print, the better.


Being exposed to print includes reading books, on a variety of topics. Signs in the child's environment such as words on cereal boxes and other expressions in print are all reading.

The effect of that exposure is the dawning that the squiggly lines carry meaning.

The more your child handles books and is read to, in the home and through visits to the library, the more receptive she is to being brought into the reading code.

"At risk" children come to the first grade classroom unable to recite the alphabet. Many of them sing the ABC song, by rote. Children described as "at risk" have difficulty relating to the alphabetization skills needed to become successful readers.

To them, "lmnop" is simply a longer name for one of the letters.

Getting those students to understand that each letter in the group has a separate name requires UNLEARNING.

When asked to recite the alphabet, some start the recitation...and then burst into song at some point along the way.

Some "at risk" children recognize their names in print. Some can identify the letters in their names. Others can't...even when they know the words are their respective names.

When asked their ages, some show me with their fingers; others tell me. More than a few tell me, "My Mom knows."

Most don't know their birthdays...

  • where they live...
  • their street addresses...
  • their telephone numbers.

These children need a powerful intervention strategy. Without help, these children are likely to be struggling readers in third grade.

Since time is of the essence, the intervention MUST prepare them within 90 to 100 school days. WHY?


the first grade teacher is forging ahead with the reading program!

If these children can't relate to what the teacher is talking about, boredom sets in.

What do WE do when we get bored?

We attempt to relieve the boredom with amusement or by other means. Perfectly normal behaviour!

The problem is these children are missing out on valuable instruction. Because the baseline knowledge of the alphabet of these children is so limited, it will prevent them from learning to read, EASILY.

They will learn...but it may be late in second grade, even early third grade before they are READY to learn. And they are not likely to read at grade level at that late stage. By then, it may be too late for them to catch up...although that can never be a certainty. And, that becomes a perfect set-up to drop out of school around 10th grade.

Alphabetization, or knowledge of the alphabet,
is the BEST predictor of academic success.

This is a consistent finding in research studies on literacy.

Another is...

Children who are read to BEFORE they start
kindergarten are 80 percent more likely to
graduate from high school.

Research studies also tell us, year after year, that what happens in the first few years of a child's life SHAPES that child's academic and social well-being later in life.

Children MUST get to the first grade classroom door...READY TO LEARN!


Because when they get to the first grade classroom, they are expected to use information and to think in a way that...fits with the school.

Those children considered well-prepared to learn by the end of kindergarten...are set for a lifetime of academic success.

If not...theirs will be a slower learning curve throughout their 12 years in school.

My research over the last 25 years has concentrated on providing parents, as well as teachers, with programs that have breadth and develop in preschool and kindergarten children...skills and abilities that prepare them for learning...

by DESIGN rather than by ACCIDENT.

If alphabet learning skills are expected to be acquired during the kindergarten year, we MUST provide parents and teachers with activities they COULD and WOULD do...if only they KNEW.

In fairness to the kindergarten teacher,
she isn't always able to find appropriate
material for the parent, teach the parent
how to use it, get her class preparation
done, and still have time for her own
personal and family life.

Awareness of that reality pretty well leaves it up to the parent to find her own way.

Isn't that why you are on the internet, right now?

Aren't you looking for useful information to guide you through the responsibility you sense and know is YOURS?


The first pillar in developing a solid foundation is to learn to recite the alphabet, by rote. Be patient with the unlearning of "lmnop, qrs, tuv, and wxyz."

As pointed out earlier, children often think of the letter clumps in the song as one letter...with a longer name.

Time and effort dedicated to learning the alphabet benefits your child in many, many ways.  It's the essential ingredient in learning to read with confidence.


To learn with delight is to remember...never to forget!

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