The word “alphabet’ originated from Latin and Greek meaning “alpha and beta” – the first two letters of the alphabet.

The alphabet is no more than a standardized set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which roughly represents a phoneme in a spoken language – in our case, English.

I can’t even remember learning the alphabet or ABC’s as a child, but I am certain that it must be taught – not absorbed or picked up.

Since, the ABCs are the building blocks of the English language, children must be able to recognize each letter, both in order and out of order, as well as the sounds connected with that letter.

Learning the alphabet should begin early in a child's life. While some children do not learn their letters until they start school this is not recommended. In fact, children should be well on their way to alphabet mastery before preschool age and should certainly be at least introduced to the letters before the age of three.

Start simple. Do not attempt to teach all 26 letters at once. Simply concentrate on a few letters at a time and allow your child to see, hear, and experience that letter in a variety of ways.

You can buy or make letters that children can experience in 3-D and let the child construct letters as well using play dough. Alphabet coloring pages and crafts can also help reinforce your child's knowledge of letters. You can also access free printable alphabet posters, coloring pages, flash cards, and mini books to reinforce letter recognition and writing skills here. 

Teaching the alphabet should be fun, not an exercise of dull, rote memorization. In order to make the experience multisensory, a very important component to learning, try using the ABC Song/American Sign Language available for the iPhone or YouTube courtesy of SmartHands.

Reading Horizons has a free downloadable 42 Sound Card Set that you can use to practice letter identification and sounds with your child.

Taking time to work with your preschooler now will make a significant difference now and later. The pay-off is happy readers and happy students.

How did you teach your child the alphabet?