by Lindsay W. Brown
July 15, 2010
“Children who start school with the knowledge of what letters are and the sounds they make are not only ready to read simple books, but are ready for other events and activities that take place in a classroom,” explains Molly Schuman, an administrative assistant for DeKalb Central schools who works with incoming kindergarten students and their families.
Learning Link’s early childhood action team has set a five-year vision of “all children entering school ready to learn”, including being able to name and recognize most letters of the alphabet. “Every outing is a learning opportunity . . . letters are all around us if we take the moments to notice,” says a kindergarten teacher. Parents, forget the workbooks, flashcards and phonics kits.
Schuman states “anyone can do this, when your child is in the car and you pull into Wal-Mart, point out the ‘W’ that is on the side; talk about the sound of the letter ‘W’. ‘CVS’, remark to your child to look at those big letters!”
Children who start school with the basic skill of naming and recognizing most letters are likely to be reading at grade level by third grade. And it’s those proficient readers at third grade who go on to graduate from high school and succeed throughout life. Too many children enter school lacking this basic skill.
According to Schuman, “the sooner children recognize the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make, the sooner they will be able to put those letters together to make words. Once children are making words, they can put them together to make sentences. And sentences are what we read, write and understand as adults.”
A set of magnetic letters can make learning the letters of the alphabet fun for parents and children. Place them on your fridge at your child’s eye level. As we mentioned last
week, playing with the letters in your son’s first name is a good place to start; then show him another word that starts with the same letter as his first name.
When your child seems ready for more, make other words that your child can relate to, like “dad” or “cat”. As your child grasps these simple concepts, expand the activity further by asking your child “what’s another word that rhymes with ‘cat’?” Can you make that word? Let’s see how many words you can make.” (And if you don’t want to stand in front of the fridge, put the magnetic letters in a plastic bag, grab a metal tray or cookie sheet and go outside.)
Here are some other activities to support children’s learning the letters of the alphabet:
- Play guessing games like “I spy with my little eye, a word with the letter ‘d’.”
- Connect each letter’s name with its sound; for example, “B goes with bbb, like you hear in bird.”
- Play with same and different sounds (phone ring tones, 2 claps and 3 claps) and pictures (bird, pig, dog).
- Make letters together with play dough and talk about each letter’s sound and what words might start with that sound.
- At a restaurant, use the menu to point out letters. You might say “let’s find the letters in your name. Let’s find the letters that are in your friend’s name.”
Once your child seems to understand the concept of letters, talk about upper and lower case letters. Again, using your child’s name is the perfect moment. You can explain that the first letter of her name is always an upper case letter. The remaining letters are lower case. Show your child examples in her books or on cereal boxes. Use play dough to form an upper case letter, then the same letter in lower case form. Talk about the differences.
Starting school is an important time for young children, their families and their teachers. Preparing children early makes them feel good about who they are and that learning is fun. This positive attitude, along with their skills, will help them soar!
For more information about Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, or a four-page booklet of low- and no-cost summer learning resources available in DeKalb County, go to www.dekalblearninglink.org and click on ‘Community and Parent Resources’, then ‘Early Childhood’, or call Judy Sorg at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 260-925-0311 or e-mail Jsorg@dekalbfoundation.org.