I have heard (and also been guilty of myself) many a parent singing the praises of their child and/or their child’s daycare based on the fact that “Little Emma knows her ABC’s already!” That’s a great first step, but really, if your child can say his/her ABC’s, that is only the very first, itty bitty, teeny tiny step on his/her literacy journey. And to be honest, being able to sing the ABC’s, or even name letters, in my opinion, is not half as important as some of the other skills that don’t get enough attention and are oftentimes overlooked- leading to perplexed parents and frustrated kids down the road.
What are the ABC’s anyways? When you think about it, letters are simply pictures. They are pictures or symbols that we use to represent individual SOUNDS. And why are sounds so important? Because when we put them together, they make words and sentences and help us COMMUNICATE! And communication is what connects us to others. As a speech therapist who is passionate not only about communication but about reading and writing as well, I am much less impressed with a toddler who can sing his ABC’s or who excels at letter naming, than a toddler who can pick out rhymes, accurately imitate multisyllabic words, or tell me the SOUND his/her name starts with. Show me a kid who can say/name the ABC’s and you’ve shown me a kid who can memorize a picture and its name. Show me a kid who can identify the first, middle, and ending sound of a word, listen to individual sounds and blend them together and tell me what word it is, substitute and manipulate the sounds in a word to make a different word, or look at a letter and tell me what sound it is a picture for….and you’ve shown me a kid who will most likely be a fantastic reader. Now that is something to brag about!! So parents, teachers, daycare providers, and nannies, etc., please remember to KEEP GOING even after your little one can say his/her ABC’s. And please, don’t worry if memorizing the names for all those letters is something that they struggle with. Work instead on being able to hear and play with the sounds, read them lots of Dr. Suess books and point out the rhymes. If your child really struggles or you are concerned, come and see me and let me work with your child for you! -J