Q:

My mother tells me that most children know the letters of the alphabet by the time they enter kindergarten. What is the best way to begin teaching my young son the alphabet? -ABC Teacher

A:

Knowing some of the letters of the alphabet definitely gives young children an advantage, because it is an important step in learning how to read. Realize, however, that only a few children entering kindergarten have a complete mastery of the alphabet.

Your young son should begin learning the alphabet now. It is very important for you to have fun together as you begin teaching the letters to him. This must not be a dull paper-and-pencil exercise.

A good way to introduce the alphabet is by playing and singing the alphabet song. At the same time, you might wish to read ABC books to him. Some books present the alphabet in very creative ways.

Instead of beginning with the letter A, start teaching your son to recognize the letters in his name, one at a time. You can have fun doing this by making letter cookies or pancakes with him, and writing letters in sand or shaving cream.

Once your son can recognize some letters, encourage him to pick out these letters in alphabet soup or cereal. Then, when you are looking at menus, books, newspapers or magazines, have him point to the letters that he can recognize.

When you introduce the sound for a letter, make collections of objects that begin with that sound. For the letter B, you could use a bandage, button and ball. Also, you can tie the introduction of a letter's sound to foods. Cake and cookies are great for the letter C.

Do give your son a chance to write the letters, too. He does not have to make them perfectly, but he can enjoy scribbling the letters on paper, tracing them in sand or finger painting them. You can even squirt shaving cream on a table and let him write his name.

In teaching your son the alphabet, you can also have him use magnetic and plastic letters, blocks and puzzles. Plus, there are some helpful computer and TV programs. Make it enjoyable for your son to learn the alphabet, and he will go to kindergarten knowing many of the letters.