Teaching Letter Sounds and Names Tips For New Parents
When a parent wants to teach his or her child to read, the best place to begin is with learning the alphabet – the name of the letters, as well as their corresponding sounds.
This knowledge is a necessary foundation for reading, so that a child can not only identify letters, but also be able to pronounce their sounds without hesitating. There has been a long standing debate on which is more effective; whole language programs or phonic programs that rely on teaching through phonemic awareness.
However, the National Reading Panel, or NRP has reviewed more than 1,900 studies conducted on the matter, and has observed that the majority of results show that raising phonemic awareness is the method that produces superior results.
In addition to this debate, there is also the discussion on whether it is better to teach a child only the names of the letters of the alphabet, or to teach them only the sounds which those letters are supposed to represent.
This issue has also been settled through studies that have proven that teaching both is more than teaching only one or the other. In fact, the results of an Australian study with 76 preschool children has shown that it there is only minimal benefit in teaching the letter names and forms and the sounds they represent separately.
The children were trained for 6 weeks in one of the following subjects: phonemic awareness, letter awareness or the control tasks. In the subsequent 6 weeks, the children were trained in either another set of control tasks or letter awareness.
The results showed that the previous training in phonemes or in letter awareness enhanced the learning of the association between letters and the sounds they represented. Another conclusion was that the children who had undergone phonemic awareness training showed greater skill when it came to the recognition tasks.
It should be obvious at this point that there is little value to teaching only either letter names or the sounds they represent. Ideally, these two things should be learned hand-in-hand, so that a child can recognize both the letter and how it should be pronounced.
Learning Letters and Sounds of The Alphabet
So the best way to teach your child the alphabet is not to simply say: “this is the letter A.” Instead, it would be better to teach your child by saying: “this is the letter A, and it makes the sound /A/” (please note that /A/ denotes the sound the letter makes, such as “ah,” and not simply the letter name)
This method can be applied when teaching all the other letters of the alphabet and the sound they make.
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There are other studies that have shown that teaching the letter names and the letter sounds together is effective in aiding children to learn how to read.
A group of 58 children of preschool children were divided into three groups, with the control group receiving instruction in numbers, while the rest were randomly assigned instructions in letter sounds or letter sounds together with letter names.
The end-results were consistent with those of other research studies, showing that the children who learned letter names and sounds together were the most likely to learn to identify the sounds of the letters with names that included cues for how they should be pronounced.
In order to effectively teach letter sounds to a child, a parent must first master the correct pronunciation of these letters. This is essential to becoming an effective teacher, and it is more difficult that it may initially seem.
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The genesis of reading ability: what helps children learn letter-sound correspondences?
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Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.
J Exp Child Psychol. 2010 Apr;105(4):324-44. Epub 2010 Jan 25.
Learning letter names and sounds: effects of instruction, letter type, and phonological processing skill. Piasta SB, Wagner RK.
Preschool Language and Literacy Lab, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.