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When Should My Child Learn The Letters Of The Alphabet?





You’d probably be surprised with how much ground work you’ve already put in to your child learning the letters of the alphabet.


If you’ve sang the ‘ABC’ song, watched a few episodes of ‘Sesame Street’ and read to your child regularly, your child has already had a fair amount of exposure to the letters of the alphabet.


But at some point, you need to start pointing out the individual letters, their names and the sounds they make.


Some children will start to recognise some letters at around 2 years of age and by (at the latest) 6 years of age you’d hope they can recognise all of the letters and sounds automatically.

Many assessments expect letter recognition by 4 or 5 years of age but from my experience as a classroom teacher, this is not true for every child.


So When Should Your Child Start To Learn The Letters Of The Alphabet?

When it comes to kids, there are no hard and fast rules. Children develop at their own speed so one rule does not apply to everyone.


But as a guideline I think it should happen in one of two ways:

1. When your child shows interest

2. Your child is about 3 or 4 years old and has a sound vocabulary of words they can say and understand


Let’s look at both of these situations:


1. When your child shows interest


The best situation you can hope for is when your child asks ‘What is that?’ and points to a letter on the page. This means they are ready and interested in exploring and discovering letters. Embrace this if it happens – you are one of the lucky ones! But your child asking about letters doesn’t usually happen by accident. It is usually because before they have asked this question about letters you have read to your child numerous times, they have seen letters on the page and probably, without even thinking, you have chatted or pointed to the letters on the page. This has all prepared your child for the step of learning the letter names and sounds.

So if your child shows a curiousity for learning the letters, run with it! Start by answering their question, then on every opportunity you get after that, point that letter again – on signs, in magazines, on cereal boxes, on cards – so your child has many chances to see the letter and learn the letter name and sound.



2. When your child is about 3 or 4 years of age and has a sound vocabulary of words they can say and understand


Some kids will need a nudge – they may not ask about the letters but if they are able to say simple words clearly, speak in understandable sentences and they understand the meaning of a range of words they are probably ready to start to explore the letters. But it will be up to you to get the ball rolling. Maybe you will put out some letter magnets or buy some letter stickers or cut out some letters from a newspaper and leave them out for your child to ‘discover’. And if they don’t see them maybe you point them out – ‘Well, what are these?’. Parents need to set up learning opportunities sometimes. Or maybe you just pick a letter, perhaps the letter your child’s name starts with and just start pointing it out every time you see it – naming the letter and the sounds it makes every time you see it making it a game who can find the letter first.



Don’t expect your child to know the letter names and sounds straight away.  Give your child time and many opportunities to learn to recognise the letters and the sounds they represent. It will take time, so be patient!


Being able to name the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make will really help your child when they go to school and start the more formal part of learning to read. By helping them, you are giving them a better chance of having success with learning to read. And learning the letter names and sounds doesn’t have to be all flashcards and drilling – children can learn just as much through everyday activities and making things fun – in fact I think they learn more this way!


So next time we will be chatting about why learning the letters and sounds is so important for your child’s reading development. So if you haven’t already, please sign up to my newsletter by popping your email address into the space at the top of this page.


Until next time,

Happy Reading!




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