Learning the Alphabet - Is It Really as Easy as ABC ?

Apr 1 07:34 2008 Barbara Freedman-De Vito Print This Article

This two-part article provides practical ideas for alphabet-learning games to play with your children to help them learn the alphabet and develop reading skills, and lets you see the simple act of reading in a new light, to appreciate what a true accomplishment it is.

Learning the alphabet and learning to read must be a piece of cake,Guest Posting right ? If nearly every six year old can master it, then it must be simple ... or is it ?The alphabet, and its use in written language, is one of the most astounding developments in human history. The ability to share knowledge and information through writing has had an impact on every other human endeavor in history. For each new generation of children, reading is a bit of a miraculous accomplishment, which requires a sophisticated set of skills.To a young child, the written word is no more than seemingly random scribbles on a page. For those squiggles and lines to fall into place and form recognizable letters, and for those letters to have specific names with predictably constant sounds, and, incredibly, for each sequence of letters to come together to create a unified whole - wow ! Successfully making that journey is one of the crowning achievements in any child's life. Learning to read means learning that written letters translate into spoken sounds. Those sounds represents known words. Those words conveys meanings - they signify real objects in the real world or they refer to concepts."D" is the letter "dee." The letter "D" gives us the sound "dee." "D - O - G" equals "DOG," perhaps some specific dog that the child knows and loves. For a child to unlock that secret is right up there with taking his or her first steps, and soon learning how to walk, and then run. From scribble, to symbol, to complete word with meaning in the physical world !Once a child can read, new worlds of knowledge and pleasure open up, and a lifetime of learning and vicarious fictional experiences can begin. What a child reads will play a role in the kind of person that that child becomes: what she or he knows, believes, values, enjoys. It may contribute to the choice of a career or provide an avenue for lifelong entertainment. In the western industrialized world, education and literacy skills are sometimes taken for granted, but the reality is that learning to read, this most powerful of cognitive skills, cannot just happen by itself, and it is not a quick process. It takes time, and different children master it at different rates.Parents need not, however, just sit back and wait for it to happen, or leave the entire burden to the school system. They need not simply hope that their children will prove to be quick studies. There is plenty that parents can do to get their children off to a good start and to reinforce reading skills at every step of the way.In "Teaching Our Youngest," from the U.S. Department of Education, it is stated that "Children who enter kindergarten knowing many letter names tend to have an easier time learning to read than do children who have not learned these skills. In fact, it is unreasonable to believe that children will be able to read until they can recognize and name a number of letters. To read, children recognize letters and know how to connect these individual letters and sometimes combinations of letters with the sounds of spoken words."This article provides some easy and practical tips for parents who want to enhance their children's liklihood of success, and to do so in ways that create effortless fun for their children. Learning does not need to be drudgery for parents or for children. It can, and should, be creative and enjoyable ! The trick is to work it into everyday situations, to make learning a spontaneous and natural part of everyday life.1. READ TO YOUR CHILDREN !The more you read to your children, the more they learn that books are powerful magic. Alphabet letters, written words, and books tell us exciting stories. They can let us discover new worlds and they can teach us things we've never dreamed of. Let your children see the words on the page as you read them aloud. Your kids can then make the connection between the written words and the words you speak, long before they are able to read those words for themselves. Let them understand that there are coded meanings to decipher from that mysterious printed page. According to the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, "At the beginning of kindergarten, children's reading skills and knowledge were related to their home literacy environment. Children from a 'literacy-rich' home environment (i.e., those who are read to, sung to, and told stories more frequently and those who have more children's books, records/audiotapes/CDs in the home) demonstrated higher reading knowledge and skills than other children. This relationship existed whether their families' income was above or below the federal poverty threshold." This effect continues once the children are in school. For example, government statistics reveal that "... children with rich literacy environments at home were more likely than other children to perform well in reading at the end of both kindergarten and 1st grade."Therefore, it's important to set aside a quiet sharing time every day, just for reading to your children. Share picture books, share longer stories, and share online or CD-ROM picture stories. If children associate the written word with pleasurable experiences, both their learning AND their motivation to learn how to read will be enhanced.2. SING SONGS TO YOUR CHILDREN !Sing simple songs to babies and very young children; teach songs to toddlers and preschoolers and older children. Help them tune into the rhythms and the rhymes, to the beauty of the sounds of words, spoken or sung. Try lullabies, familiar children's songs, chanted Mother Goose rhymes, even bouncy pop songs. You can also play finger games with rhyming jingles, both for the soothing sounds of the words and to help young fingers gain dexterity.3. PLAY ALPHABET GAMES !Help your children master the alphabet before they begin kindergarten or first grade. Help them associate letters with the sounds that they make, for the same government report confirms that "... children who had certain early literacy knowledge and skills (e.g. could recognize letters of the alphabet, recognize numbers and shapes, and understand the concept of the relative size of objects) when they entered kindergarten demonstrated higher reading proficiency in the spring of both kindergarten and 1st grade than children who did not have this knowledge and these skills."In part 2 of this article, I'll be providing some starter ideas for helping your children learn the alphabet and to get a head start in ultimately learning how to read.

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Barbara Freedman-De Vito
Barbara Freedman-De Vito

You can find alphabet t-shirts and other alphabet items by visiting Alphabet T-Shirts for Kids, Parents & Teachers at http://www.giftstshirtsmug/2636988 Barbara is a teacher, author and artist.

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