Letter knowledge is knowing that the same letter can look different, as well as knowing that each letter makes a sound. When putting the letter sounds together, children are able to “sound out” the full word. This is a foundational skill needed for reading full words and sentences.
To support this skill at Winona Public Library, we place large letter tags in each of our book sections. These tags indicate the first letter of each last name or character in that section. When a child wants to find the Pete the Cat books, we ask what letter “Pete” starts with, emphasizing the sound of the letter P. Then we search for that letter together.
Letters, shapes, and colors are everywhere you look! The best way to build a knowledge of what each letter sounds like is to say these letters out loud. It helps your child develop a sense of the different sounds each letter can make, and it helps them correlate the shape of the letter with the sound. Here are some simple strategies to incorporate at home:
- Children are most often interested in the letters that spell his or her name. Take the first letter of your child’s first name and talk about other objects that start with that letter.
- Point out items while driving, walking, or shopping and ask them to say other words that start with that letter. It helps to emphasize the first letter. Example: “There’s a b-b-building. What else starts with the letter B?”
- Point out and name different shapes, colors, and letters in books you read. The book doesn’t have to be strictly about shapes or colors. You can find them in any illustration.
- Write a letter in large print on paper. Give your child a set of small stickers and have them place the stickers along the lines, so they can get used to the shapes each letter holds.
- Point out the shapes in each letter. All letters can be torn down to basic shapes: circle, triangle, rectangle, square. Knowing the shapes will make it easier to recognize the letters in print.
Conversation is key for this skill. A child can see letters and know they make a word but have no idea what it sounds like if they never hear it out loud. The English language can be really hard sometimes. Letters can sound different depending on what other letters are near them. Help your child realize these differences by speaking them aloud whenever possible. Don’t feel bad if you kindly correct their pronunciation of a word. This helps them to understand different letter sounds while also building a trust that their caregiver will help them navigate the world around them. For more information or guidance, please visit the Winona Public Library. Our friendly staff is always ready to help you navigate the path of early literacy (and beyond).
Use one of these free handouts to practice this skills at home: