STOP using letter names!

At OpenReading™ we’re all about making learning to read easy – easy for kids and easy for parents! We give you the key tips and tricks you need to help your kid pick up reading painlessly. 

One of the best things you can do, starting right now, is to stop referring to letters by their names and start using the letter sounds instead. This is one of the three Rules for Letter Sounds we teach in our program.

Teaching letter names before letter sounds can cause frustration and failure, which is then often labeled dyslexia!

This story from our founder is the perfect real-life illustration of how using letter names creates confusion for early readers. 

“A happy mom told me about driving to our reading clinic with her four-year old son, Jesse, and his friend Aaron. The boys were looking out the car window at the letters written on the back of a truck (which said “Stan and Sons”). Aaron, who had been taught to recognize the letters of the alphabet by their letter names asked, ”What does S-T-A-N say?” 

Jesse had been attending our clinic for four weeks, and was learning to recognize letters by their sounds rather than by their letter names. He turned to Aaron and said, “That doesn’t say all that! It says /sss/-/t/-/aaa/-/nnn/, Stan! Hey, I read the word!” Having learned the most common sound for each letter, not the letter names, Jesse had immediate success when he applied his knowledge to this new word. In contrast, many preschoolers and kindergarteners, like Aaron, who have learned the letter names, are confused or disappointed when they try to sound out words and the letters in smooth succession.”

Here’s another illustration of the letter names causing trouble: 

If you’re reading the word “cab” with your kid and sound it out by saying the letter names “C” “A” “B” (See A Bee), they’ll think you’re talking about a bumble bee instead of a taxicab! The correct way to sound out “cab” is to smoothly string together each letter’s sound (/caaab/) without pausing between the sounds.

So, to cut out the confusion, we encourage you to stop referring to letters by their names! 

Say the letter sound — not the letter name! Say /mmm/ instead of “em”. 

When talking about letters with your kid you might be used to saying things like, “What words start with the letter ‘S’?” It’s better to ask, “What words start with the /sss/ sound?” Or rather than saying, “Apple” starts with the letter ‘A’,” you can say, “Apple” starts with the letter sound /aaa/.” 

Don’t worry if your kid already knows letter names or is learning them at school. The important thing is for YOU to start using letter sounds with them consistently. It’ll make learning to read much easier!

Want to know more? Get the free Parent Training Program: Coach Your Beginning Reader.

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