This is the second post in a series of posts covering teaching literacy skills to young children at home. To see the first post go to “How to Begin Teaching Early Reading Skills

Now that you’ve started teaching your child the basic skills of reading, it’s time to teach the ABC Song, right?

Not so fast.

If you stop to think about it, the ABC song by itself teaches little. It is no more valuable than teaching “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in the beginning. It’s not that it’s bad to teach the ABC song, the letters are just completely arbitrary and meaningless when you know only the song. What the ABC song teaches is alphabetical order. You can’t do anything with it until much later when you have more skills mastered.

So, if not the ABC Song, what is the next step in teaching your child to read?

Letter recognition!

Again, I advise you not to start with ‘A-B-C-’ when teaching letter recognition either. Start by teaching the letters that are most important to your child and to your family. The first letter to begin teaching your child is the first letter in their name! I call this your child’s SPECIAL LETTER. The next couple letters your child will learn should be the SPECIAL LETTERS that start their parent’s names. In my family, those letters are ‘M’ and ‘D’ for Mama and Daddy. (They could very well be different in your family – the beauty of learning at home is your ability to make learning customized to your child!)

The key to learning letters is being immersed in the world of letters and having contact with letters in multiple ways, multiple times a day. The fun thing about making letters and reading a part of your everyday life is it becomes so natural you don’t even think about it. One day things just click, and your child can recognize letters on their own! You think “How did that happen?!” Then you remember, oh yeah… I guess I did do a lot to teach them that! It just seems so simple and easy, you don’t even realize it’s happening.

So how do you teach letter recognition in your home? Read on to find out!

How to Teach Letter Recognition in Simple Ways

Write child’s name on their artwork and post it up on the refrigerator or the wall at their eye level so they can see it throughout the day. Randomly point to their name over the course of the days when their art is displayed and say “You painted that didn’t you! I see your name right there! And there’s your special letter R! You worked really hard on that.”

Create sensory letters for the wall using craft paper. I used three different types of craft paper and cut out our 3 special letters to put on the wall. I happened to have paper that was fuzzy, bumpy, and rough. This way the letters were inviting and built upon different levels of learning. I posted them at eye level, and randomly pointed them out throughout our play. I’ve also cut out a cardboard letter and glued pompoms to it to include in a wall display! It’s very fun to touch.

Wrap yarn around a cardboard cut-out letter.

Pick out special letters from the ABC blocks and hand them to each member of the family who they match. These are the first three letters both of my children learned, followed by G and P for Grandma and Papa.

Draw letters in the sand. Write letters in the sand as you play! We write messages in the sand when we go to the beach for people to find. And if you’re at home you can draw letters in the sand box or put sand on a sheet pan to run your finger thru making different designs and yes letters.

Have an ABC poster up at eye level in your play space and practice pointing to the letters one at a time as you sing the ABC song. I know, I know, I began this post by bashing the ABC song a little… but when you have a visual reference to connect to the song the letters aren’t arbitrary, and they have meaning! It’s a perfect way to encourage letter recognition. You can circle your special letters on the poster too to highlight what they already know!

Use chalk to help teach letters. Basically, every time we get out the chalk, I write out all the family members names. This is super simple but helps with letter recognition as you say each letter as you write it.

Also try the very simple strategy of writing single important letters around your concrete or pavement area, then inviting your child to jump or dance on each letter as you name them. “We’re jumping on the M! Jumping on the M! Jumping on the M! Can you find the D next for Daddy?!” Give the child a moment to find it on their own then run to the D and repeat the dance and song like you did on the last letter. Anytime you can incorporate multiple areas of development when teaching is a good thing!

Incorporating a child’s name in an activity path is another great strategy to teaching letters. Just write each letter going down the path with a circle around it. Have the child jump and clap on each letter as they say it. If you have the chalk out anyway, it is so simple to make it a time to support letter recognition!

Point out your child’s special letters whenever you see them: in books, on packaging, on clothing, anywhere! I told you this was supposed to be easy right? The more ways you can just point out letters in small ways the better. Your kids will start noticing print around them as well and excitedly point letters out to you too! (Well, eventually)

I’ll never forget pushing my grocery cart through Fresh Thyme grocery and my daughter excitedly shouting “R- R- R-!!!” She had spotted the R in the word “FROZEN” written up high to show where the frozen food section was located. It was an awesome moment.  

Decorate for the holidays and seasons with hearts, shamrocks, flowers, leaves and other simple shapes that have the names of family members on them! Again, super simple but extremely effective. Choose a simple shape to replicate over and over and then write out everyone’s names on them. You display them on the wall to decorate your home. Like the ABC blocks you can hand them out to people and randomly point them out during play.  

** you can laminate by sandwiching your name tags between two pieces of clear contact paper which will make your activity last longer**

Draw your child’s name in block letters on cardboard or any paper and let them paint their name. Post it at eye level so they can see it all the time and refer to it during play. Point to each letter and say the letter names out loud to your child.    

Draw the letters you are currently working on all over a paper towel tube, then write the same letters on yard sale dot stickers. The child then matches the stickers to the letters on the tube and puts them all over the tube.I first used this activity as an activity for a long car ride and it worked well and doesn’t cost much at all!

Post It Activity – Write your child’s name on a piece of poster board with the letters spaced out. Then write the letters of their names on Post It notes, with one letter on each note. Then have the child sort the Post It letters on top of the letters written on the poster board. To be clear this is more of a sorting activity. You make it an activity that teaches letter recognition by saying the letter names out loud as the child sorts.   

There are so many more activities that help to teach letter recognition that might take a bit more planning, but these simple strategies are a extremely effective start on your journey to teaching your child to recognize the shapes of all 36 letters! Start with the special letters (first letter of all the names in your family), then move on to your extended family, then teach all the letters of your child’s name, then link whatever letters might remain to things they love like food, toys, or things in nature. Whatever you do, follow your child’s lead in learning and make what you teach meaningful to your child!

So, I know I talked a lot about special letters in this post. It is honestly the best way to start teaching letters, but this strategy hints at one of my core beliefs about learning in general. The best learning happens when what you teach has meaning and is important to your child. Learning should be meaningful. When approaching teaching in this way, your child will WANT to learn and be proud of the knowledge they gain. I consider myself a life-long learner with a growth mindset. Every day I’m learning new things and growing alongside my children. When we show our kids that we are genuinely excited about learning, its contagious.

It’s a beautiful thing for learning to be so integrated into your everyday life that its not a chore but its something you and your kids are eager to do! I love to learn with my children and see them excited as they learn new things! We celebrate our break throughs together!

While the idea of teaching your child to read might still sound intimidating, you really can do it. You are enough! With the right resources and knowledge, you can do anything. Believe in yourself! Just follow these baby steps, take it a little bit at a time and make learning to read part of your everyday life.

You really CAN teach your child to read! I have a feeling you already are.

Click HERE to read on in this series. The next post covers building sight word recognition.

To stay up to date on what’s happening at Big Love Small Moments, LIKE and FOLLOW our Facebook group! You don’t want to miss out!

If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends on Facebook and spread the knowledge!