Knowledge of the Alphabet
Research shows us that children who know the names and shapes of letters when formal reading instruction begins are more likely to experience success in learning to read than children who have had little experience with the alphabet. There are probably two reasons for this. One is that as important as one's language and background knowledge are, they are not enough when learning to read. Children must become familiar with the symbols that are used in print; they must understand the special code that is used in their written language. The second reason is that knowledge of the alphabet suggests that children have had exposure to print. In many cases, it is the "tip of the iceberg." That is, children who know the alphabet know a great deal else in addition. They are likely to have had significant experiences with print. The more exposure to print, the more comfortable children are with engaging in reading activities themselves.
In order to learn to read, children must come to the realization that, in a world filled with visual stimuli, letters play a very special role. Further, they must recognize that a letter's orientation in space is important. Orientation is an issue unique to letters. A cookie is still a cookie regardless of the way you hold it—upside down, backwards, or sideways. But it matters what direction a letter is. Think of the letter "b." Rotate it and it becomes a "q." Flip it over sideways and it is a "d." Turn it another direction and it is a "p."
Children's familiarity with the alphabet typically begins with the alphabet song. Many toddlers can sing this song. Later, when children begin to notice letters and hear the names of the letters, they make a connection between the song they sing and the shapes they see. Children in homes rich in print (that is, where there are lots of books and other reading materials) have many opportunities to notice letters in their environment. They see letters on magazine covers and the morning newspaper. They see letters on the books on the coffee table and on clippings posted on the refrigerator. They see their parents using letters on market lists and on the checks they write at the checkout counter. They see letters on envelopes that come in the mail. They see letters in the books their parents read to them.
© ______ 2000, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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