Monday, April 20, 2009

Letter Knowledge

"The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Communities ranking high in achievement tests have several factors in common: an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large, and a large number of textbooks per student."
- Newman, Sanford, et. All. "Americana's Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000.

Letter Knowledge "Know Letters"
is a very common school readiness sk
ill. Most kindergarten teachers expect that children will know their letters by the time they enter kindergarten. It involves:
  • Recognizing and naming letters of the alphabet
  • Recognizing similarities and differences between letters
  • Recognizing that there are upper- and lower- case letters
  • Recognizing that specific sounds go with specific letters
Children who know their letters and understand that letters represent sounds are better prepared to "crack the code" (figure out the letter-sound relationship that becomes words). They understand that specific letter symbols can result in specific words and can start to predict the letters in words with some success.
  • Young children can quickly learn the alphabet song, but they are primarily learning it as a song, rather than understanding that the song refers to a list of letters.
  • By the age of 3, most children will start to show an interest in letters - especially the letters in their names. They may also recognize letters from their names in the words they see around them, also known as "environmental print".
  • Generally, 3 and 4 year-olds start to show interest in writing their names. It can be easier for young children to begin to write their names using all uppercase letters. Lowercase letters typically require greater fine motor skill.
  • By the age of 5, many children have expanded the letters they recognize and write to include letters in words that are familiar or meaningful to them.
  • Although even young children can be taught to recognize and write all the letters in the alphabet, understanding the function or purpose of those letters comes from meaningful experiences producing the letters (such as singing one's name and writing notes to people).
  • When children start to write their letters, the letters may be upside down or backwards. When writing their names or a word, the letters may be all over the page. They may skip letters or only write their favorite letters. They may just make marks on paper and claim the marks are letters. This is quite normal.

Letter Knowledge in Storytime:
  • When making nametags, talk about the letters in children's name. Point out when a child's name is written on something such as a list or the child's backpack.
  • Sing the alphabet song. There are many versions of the alphabet set to music, too. Carole King sings "A, Alligators All Around" on Really Rosie. John Litgow sings "A - You're Adorable" on Singin' In The Bathtub.
  • Talk with children about the shapes of letters. Look for things with similar shapes in the world around them. Ask children to create letters with their fingers or bodies.
  • Using large letters, create a sign-in sheet for the children with a line next to each name. Each time a child arrives, encourage him or her to sign in.
  • Talk with children about environmental print - the words they see around them, such as the EXIT sign above the door and the words on a child's T-shirt.
  • If possible, make writing materials available for play and exploration. Children need experiences with writing materials on a regular basis in order to find writing letter interesting.
Letter Knowledge Comments for Adults at Storytime:
  • Babies and younger toddlers: "Children under 2 do not need to know about letters. Letters are symbols that stand for specific sounds of speech, which is inappropriate for babies because it's intangible. It's much more important that babies and toddlers have real objects to play with and an engaged adult."
  • "Playing with shapes - balls, blocks, and sorting toys - is the beginning of shape awareness, which will lead to letter knowledge in later years."
  • Toddlers 30 months and older: "A fun game to play with your child is to go on a treasure hunt for his or her own letter - the first letter of your child's name. Show your child the letter and write it down; then, as you go though the day, see how many of that letter you both can find. Once that letter is mastered, move on to other letters, such as M for Mom, G for Grandpa."
  • "There are some great alphabet books that are more fun for children than the typical alphabet books with pictures and words labels. Try Albert's Alphabet by Leslie Tryon or SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod."


What Can We Do for Letter Knowledge?
  • Flannels, props or stick stories containing large clear letters. For example: C is for Carrot and car, castle, and coin.
  • Songs and games using the beginning and rhyming letters in words
  • Large letters to use in play
  • Stick pictures, props or games using shapes
  • Using shapes in stories: Tell and Draw of flannel guessing shapes, such as Guess the Shadow

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do for Letter Knowledge?
  • Write the child's name often, spelling each letter out loud as you go along
  • Encourage your child to make letters with clay or in sand
  • Sing the alphabet song together

Suggested Books:
  • Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming
  • A, B, See! by Marilyn Janovitz
  • Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobel
  • Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book by Brian P. Cleary
  • Click, Clack, Quackity-Quack! by Doreen Cronin
  • B is Bulldozer by June Sobel

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