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How Can I Help My Son Learn the Alphabet?

Allison Gardenswartz
Allison Gardenswartz

By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator


My son does not seem to be able to recognize letters of the alphabet as expected. His teachers say that he is behind in class. At home if I ask him to point out a specific letter he can do it. If I show him a letter and ask him what it is, he is unable to recognize several of the letters. We have used games, flash cards and other things to help him learn the letters. He just seems to get frustrated and stops trying. Is this normal for a 5-, almost 6-year-old? Is there a technique we can try to get him more focused on the letters?


Please bear in mind that reading and reading readiness are developmental and just as some children walk at 9 months and others walk at 16 months, there are different ages for the acquisition of reading skills that are still within the normal range. With that said, it is important that you provide your son with some tools to enable him to learn and recognize the letters. The Early World of Learning Story Cassettes for Children by World Books is a great memory aid and I find it effective with young children.

I also think puzzles with letters on them are very effective in letter recognition as they require a child to really study the shape of the letter to place it within the puzzle. Repetition is always helpful, and going over the particular letters that your son struggles with will help. You can make art projects in which he needs to cut out the letters and then paste them on a board.

In general, touching on the same skill in a variety of ways will help to convert the knowledge into long-term memory. Try to keep it light and fun so that he feels successful and enjoys himself. Work at practicing for short periods of time daily. It is likely to click soon and you may be surprised at how quickly he progresses.

At the end of the kindergarten year, if your son still struggles to recognize letters, it may be worth having him evaluated to be sure there is not a learning disability. You can do this through the school district or through a private educational diagnostician. Typically you would see memory difficulties in other areas, not just with letter recognition, if there is a real problem. Stay in close contact with the classroom teacher and see how the school year progresses.

Allison Gardenswartz is the founder of a San Diego tutoring center specializing in gifted and remedial learning and test preparation studies. An educator for over 15 years, Allison is an expert in identifying and enhancing the learning abilities of school-age children. Allison now fully devotes her time to parent education, consulting and college counseling. Allison has a teaching credential and has taught for several years in various public school systems. She has three children: Jacob, 11, Sofia, 7, and newly adopted Ryan, who is 3.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

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"If he is a hands on learner try making the letter shapes out of playdough so he can see and feel the letters."