Letter Knowledge

Northeast Library

Letter Knowledge

Early Literacy tips for parents and caretakers of young children

Researchers say that there are six skills that are important for children to learn before they are ready to read:

  1. Print Motivation
  2. Print Awareness
  3. Narrative Skills
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Letter Knowledge
  6. Phonological Awareness

(Source: Every Child Ready to Read via Saroj Ghoting).  

Having letter knowledge as an early literacy skill refers to being able to differentiate between different letters and their sounds, knowing the names of letters, and understanding that the same letter can look different (i.e. upper and lower case.)  Children must have letter knowledge in order to "sound out" words by understanding that a word is broken down into letters that each have their own smaller sound.
To develop letter knowledge, an obvious first choice in literature selection would be an alphabet book such as the classic Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and Joan Archambault or the fun and adorable LMNO Peas by Keith Baker.
To start at the beginning, however, children must know their shapes before they can understand all of the letters of the alphabet. A Q is a circle with a rectangle in it, and W is two open-topped triangles, for example. Try reading Shape Capers by Cathryn Falwell or Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham.
Instead of just practicing the alphabet song, try singing songs with repeated refrains that include letters. Sing and read along with Rosemary Well's board book version of BINGO or Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Jane Cabrera (E-I-E-I-O!).
Another activity that you can do with children to promote letter knowledge is to have them practice writing their names.  Even if they don't understand the alphabet yet, they will start to "write" by drawing random shapes, such as circles, lines and squiggles, and this is the first step to having them understand that letters are made up of shapes.

Interested in more early literacy tips? Attend story time with your child and check back at dclibrary.org/northeast next month for the final tip of this Early Literacy Series: Phonological Awareness! Thanks for reading!

-- Cassie F., Children's Librarian