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Phonics Alphabet Sounds

Should You Teach Letter Name Or Sound First?

When it comes to teaching reading, most parents will typically introduce alphabet letters to the child using various means such as letter blocks, books, flashcards, and so on. While well intentioned, most parents go about it in a way that actually leads to little benefit for the child when it comes to learning to read - this is because instead of teaching the sounds of the alphabet, they instead teach the names of the letters. As you'll see just below, teaching the names of the letters does little to help a child learn to read.

Furthermore, studies have shown that teaching the phonics letter sounds is far more important than teaching the names, and at the same time, it is more beneficial to have the child learn phonics sounds together with the names.

We have different activities and printables for you to use to help teach your child the phonics sounds here.

Mastering Letter Sounds

The cornerstone of learning to read effectively is learning the letter sounds and acquiring the innate ability to instantly decode and recognize words. However, for a young child or a beginning reader, this isn't such a simple process. This is something that requires repeated exposure and practice such that the word decoding / deciphering process becomes an instant, automatic process. Being a fluent reader you probably don't put much thought into how much neural effort is required to read and comprehend, especially for new learners.

Let's break it down a bit, and you'll see what we mean:

1) We have a simple sentence, "the dog jumped." Simple enough. However, it's really not that simple for a beginning learner, starting with "THE" which is a sight word that must be known by "sight", and it is a word that cannot be decoded.

2) Now we move on to "DOG". What makes dog sound like "DOG"? There are 3 phonemes (sounds): /d/ /o/ /g/. Knowing only the letter names will provide you with little to no clue on decoding this word - "dee" "oh" "gee". Well, that sounds nothing like /d/ /o/ /g/ "DOG". The reader must not only know the 3 aforementioned phonemes, he or she must then be able to quickly (instantly) connect those 3 sounds to form the sound of the word "DOG".

3) The same process continues with "JUMPED"

So as you can see, reading is a fairly involved process that requires 1) the ability to recognize and know the letter, 2) the knowledge of letter sounds represented by the printed text, and 3) the ability to quickly connect those sounds together to form the complete word. Here, we're just covered 2 absolute critical components of learning to read: Phonics and Phonemic Awareness.

In many cases, this is where many parents, no matter how well intentioned, get a little off base by teaching only the letter names to their child. Knowing "dee" "oh" "gee" will have little to no effect on teaching a child to read the word "DOG".

Take a look around our site, and you'll discover much about phonics and teaching young children to read. If you have a few minutes, click here to watch a video that explains exactly what you need to teach your child to read.