Helping Young Children Learn the Sounds of Letters

Alphabet blocks

Understanding the basic sounds of individual letters is an important basic skill in learning to read. Child care providers sometimes call this “learning the alphabet.” It also is called phonological awareness, which is the ability to pay attention to, identify, and use sounds of speech. Phonological awareness helps children break words into sounds and to blend sounds into words.

For example, children need to tell the difference between “d” and “t,” or “b” and “p.” Some letters can have a number of sounds. The letter “a” can have a short sound, as in “fat” and a long sound, as in “gate.” Or “c” can sometimes have a “k” sound, as in “cat” or a “s” sound as in “circle.”

Helping Children Learn Letter Sounds

It takes a while for children to learn the different letter sounds. It also takes time to learn that written letters and words have sounds that go with them. Here are some ways child care providers can help children learn the sounds of letters and words.

  • Sing alphabet songs
  • Help children clap the beats or syllables in words
  • Point out letters, especially letters in children’s names
  • Show children words on every day items such as stop signs or cereal boxes
  • Read stories with repeated phrases and rhymes
  • Play games with words that rhyme
  • Place signs or labels on shelves to show children where toys belong

For More Information

To learn more about how to support young children’s literacy skills in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: