Chances are, your preschooler will be expected to learn the ABC’s first thing when he goes to school. While I think most children can learn to sing the traditional ABC song, this is a bit of a rabbit trail along the path toward successfully learning to read. After years of working with children who struggled to read and also with beginners learning to read for the first time, I learned the habit of cutting anything that was extra or that could be confusing out of the lessons. Learning letter names fell into that category from the beginning.
I was tutoring a child one summer that had repeated first grade and still was not reading. By this time Kyle was really burned out on the whole process and was very reluctant each time we sat down to work. One day I got him to sit with me on my porch swing in the attempt to make the process of reading less like school and more friendly. He was willing to sit out there with me, but his struggles broke my heart. He came to a word that had an A in it… while I cannot remember the exact word, it was a word like “camp.” He started to sound out the word. “C,” he said. Next letter was an A. He stuttered over that letter, first saying “AY” and then quickly changing it to “apple.” Then he stopped and just looked at me.
Because Kyle had already been exposed countless times to the alphabet, what I did had to be different from the norm. We went through the Alphabet Teaching Cards, looking at the images embedded in the letters and doing the hand motions that went with each letter.
It only took one time through for Kyle to remember each letter sound and hand motion. The next time we sat down to read a book, Kyle could correctly sound out the words. What was interesting to note was that as he was sounding, Kyle was making the letter motions without even realizing it. This taught me that he relied on the information he received through his body and its movement to recall what he’d learned. His eyes could see the letter, his body moved to shape the letter, and then the correct sound came out of his mouth.
With children all the way through middle school or high school who are struggling with letter sounds, and in particular vowels, reading is a chore. This is of course because words are made of sounds and if a child missed out on a good foundation of sounds/symbol correlation, difficulty in reading will plague her ever after. The good news is that if you run them through the alphabet, showing the embedded visuals and doing the hand motions, learning that escaped them initially has a chance to gain entrance through other modalities and this time, the student will be successful.