Wondering how to help your preschooler get a head start? Want to help your child with early reading skills?

We asked the U.S. Department of Education for some advice on what parents can do.

We know: How to Help Teach Your Child the Alphabet

At what age should I start?

In general, children from ages 2-6 are helped by learning to recognize letters shapes, and link them to the sounds of words. You can aid your preschooler in learning the difference between individual letters and what each letter sounds like.

What books can help my child learn the alphabet?

These books have been suggested by the Department of Education:

  1. Kitamura, Satoshi. From Acorn to Zoo and Everything in Between in Alphabetical Order. Sunburst, 1995. Each page shows an assortment of things that begin with the same letter-all clearly labeled. For each page there is a question (and a clue) that can be answered only by looking carefully at the picture.
  2. MacDonald, Suse. Alphabatics. Bradbury Press, 1986. The letters of the alphabet are transformed and placed in 26 illustrations so that the hole in b becomes a balloon and y turns into the head of a yak (an ox with long hair).
  3. Rankin, Laura. The Handmade Alphabet. Puffin, 1996. This book presents the handshape for each letter of the manual alphabet (American Sign Language) accompanied by an object whose name begins with that letter.
  4. Shannon, George. Tomorrow's Alphabet. Mulberry Books, 1999. A is for seed-what's going on here? The seed is tomorrow's Apple! An imaginative alphabet puzzle that encourages children to think and make predictions.
  5. Shelby, Anne. Potluck. Orchard, 1991. A multicultural collection of friends having names starting with A-Z bring a variety of dishes to a potluck.

What activities can help my child learn the alphabet?

These simple activities can also help:

  • Print the child's name on paper and say each letter and sound as you make the letter.
  • Teach your child the alphabet song.
  • Put alphabet magnets on the fridge.
  • Point out individual letters on signs.
  • Look for educational TV shows, CDs, video games and DVDs.
  • Make an alphabet book with letter pages and pictures or drawings of items that start with each letter.

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We Know: How Phonics Works

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