The alphabet song is something most children learn, but research shows that to become successful readers children also need to apprehend the “alphabetic principle”: the concept that letters are symbols that represent the sounds of speech. Children need to understand that letters not only make predictable sounds, but also correspond to the sounds of spoken language.
Here are some ideas to reinforce this concept:
- Prop: Cell Phone. Explain that if you want to communicate to another person you can do it a few different ways. You can call another person and speak into the phone. The person you are calling will hear your voice and understand your message. Or you can send the same message via email or text message. When you email or text, the letters you type into your cell phone represent the sounds of the words used in your voice message. If the person on the other end knows how to read your message, they’ll understand just from looking at the symbols (letters) in your message what you are communicating.
- Prop: A Book, Magazine or Newspaper. (Be sure to choose something with few or no pictures.) Explain to your child that you can read the “secret code” represented by all those letters on the page. The letters, words, and sentences represent the sounds of spoken language. Explain that while your child naturally and easily learned to speak, learning the “secret code” requires more effort. To learn to read, one must learn the name, shape, and sound(s) represented by each letter of the alphabet.
- Props: Sticky note, pen, and a picture book. Before you begin reading the picture book to your child, point to a single object pictured in the story and ask what it is. Be sure to choose an object that is easy to spell. (For example: cat, dog, dad, pig or another three letter word.) Write that word on the sticky note and explain that you are using letters to represent the word your child just said. Place the sticky note in the book on the page where the object appeared. Then, read the book to your child. When you come to the sticky note ask your child to read it to you.
Learning to read is a long process, but what parents do at home can really support emergent readers on the journey.