An A to Z of Learning to Read: The Alphabet

An A to Z of Learning to Read_ The Alphabet. Tips by My Little Bookcase

Once children are aware of the print around them, we can work towards helping them understand that the print they see carries meaning or a message. In order to do that, a child needs to be able to recognise the individual symbols (letters) in the print, which is why learning the alphabet is an ingredient for reading.

PLEASE NOTE: As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, learning to read doesn’t necessarily follow a structured sequence. For example, learning to recognise the alphabet doesn’t necessarily happen before developing phonological awareness. They can actually develop alongside each other. So, if you’ve stumbled upon this post please explore the other posts in this A to Z of Learning to Read series because there are other ingredients for reading that are equally as important as learning the alphabet.

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Alphabet: The alphabet consists of 26 single written letters that, individually and in various combinations, represent the 44 sounds in the English language.

Letter Names: Titles given to the 26 letter symbols in the English alphabet, which together represent the 44 sounds in the English language.

Letter Recognition: The ability to identify and name letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase.  Once letter recognition is mastered, children can learn the characteristics, formation and shape of the letters.

Uppercase Letters: Uppercase letters are also known as capital letters. They are all written at the same height and are used to begin a sentence or proper nouns.

Lowercase Letters: Lowercase letters are smaller than capital letters. Although the form of each letter can vary slightly, they each consist of a body while some letters also include a head or tail. Learning to read involves distinguishing between uppercase and lowercase versions of printed letters.

Consonants: Non-vowel speech sounds made when a part of the mouth (tongue, lips, and teeth) obstructs the sound being made.

Vowel: A speech sound made without any obstruction of air flow from the lungs. These sounds are represented by the letters ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’, ‘u’ and sometimes ‘y’).


1. Knowing common shapes (circle, square, and triangle) before introducing the alphabet will help children to distinguish the shape of letters.

2. Many people naturally only introduce letter names to their children, but others argue that a letter sound is more important than its name. I believe that the two go hand-in-hand and should be introduced at the same time. Rather than introducing the whole alphabet, start by focussing on one letter at a time.  Introduce the letter name, its sound and its formation/shape at the same time.

E.g. My name is ‘m’. I say /m/ and I look like this (Mm).

3. This is a sequence of task types I like children to explore when learning letters. Some more specific activity ideas can be found at the end of this post or on my Alphabet Pinterest board.

a)    Build or make the letter/s

b)    Play with the letter/s

c)     Search for the letter/s

d)    Match and sort the letters

4. When introducing letters, begin with the letters in your child’s name and those of family members because these names (and letters) hold significance. There will also be many meaningful opportunities for them to identify these letters in your home, such as identifying letters in names addressed on postal packages.

Introduce letters in a child's name_My Little Bookcase

5. Below is a common sequence for introducing letters to children once they have begun to recognise the letters in their own name. This sequence allows children to recognise, early on, the letters in small words (e.g.  at, am, mat, pat, map etc. ). It also separates letters which look similar (b and d; p and q; g and y). Note though, that confusing letters that look similar is common and can happen for children even during the early years of primary school.

m, a, t, p, o, n, d, c, u, s, g, h, i, f, b, l, e, r, w, k, x, v, y, z, j, q

6. Uppercase letters are easier to distinguish from one another, so that can be a good starting point. But, don’t be too slow in introducing lowercase letters either because this is the case most frequently encountered in texts. I love alphabet books that feature both upper and lower case letters.

7. There are a range of fonts used in schools (For example, the Victorian Modern Cursive is used in Victorian schools). I encourage you to find out and use the font that is used in your state or region. Once your child can recognise all letters of the alphabet, you can then challenge them with a range of fonts.

8. It is not essential for children to be able to write letters in order for them to recognise or read them. However, writing letters can sometimes help particular children in learning to recognise letters, especially if they are linguistic or kinaesthetic learners. There are also some great visual aids to help with letter formation, such as this clever classroom trick from Learn with Play at Home.


My Little Bookcase 'alphabet activities' Pinterest board


There are literally hundreds of activity ideas in books and on the internet to assist children in learning to recognise letters of the alphabet, but when searching for alphabet activities it is important to keep in mind your child’s natural learning style (how they learn best).

Visual/Spatial learners prefer learning by using, drawing or visualising pictures, images and patterns.  Consider:

Alphabet Scavenger Hunt_My Little Bookcase

Auditory/Musical learners prefer learning with the use of sounds, music and rhythm. Consider:

  • —Singing the classic alphabet song
  • Using instruments to learn letters
  • —Using songs such as The ABCs of Moving You with Usher and Sesame Street or Dr Jean’s Who Let the Letters Out
  • —Writing and singing your own songs
  • —Chanting letters

Logical/Mathematical learners prefer learning with the use logic, classification, reasoning and numbers. Consider:

Verbal/Linguistic learners learn best through reading, writing, speaking and listening. Consider:

Letter Detective Hunt_ My Little Bookcase

Physical/Kinaesthetic learners prefer learning through touch and movement. Consider:

outdoor alphabet hunt_My Little Bookcase

Social/Interpersonal learners prefer learning in groups or alongside others. Consider:

Naturalistic learners prefer to work in and with nature. Consider:

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About Jackie Small of My Little Bookcase

An A to Z of Learning to Read: The Alphabet


  1. Wow this post is an incredible resource!! thanks so much, I am pinning straight away so I dont lose it :) xx

  2. So many great ideas and resources again Jackie! :) Thanks for sharing! :) I love that last picture with the letters hiding around the garden – how fun!!!!

  3. I am really enjoying this series, Jackie :) Such an amazing resource! My daughter is learning the alphabet at the moment and this will be really helpful in supporting her on this journey.

  4. Wow I didn’t know all that! I wonder what types of learners my kids are, one sits quietly and listens carefully and the other one has trouble sitting still at all. Maybe she just needs a different type of learning and you’ve given me some great ideas here for a starting point, thanks Jackie!

    • It’s amazing how differently kids learn from one another- even siblings. But I truly believe catering to learning style strengths can make a world of difference to children.

  5. So many helpful ideas, thank you. Pinning to share too :)

  6. Such a helpful post. Pinning it now.

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