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Reading by the letter.

North American children learn the names of letters of the alphabet long before they grasp the sounds that those letters make. In fact, preschoolers may take their first steps toward literacy by using their knowledge of letter names to identify sounds in printed words, according to a report in the May Developmental Psychology.

In experiments directed by Rebecca Treiman, a psychologist at Wayne State University in Detroit, 42 children ranging in age from 4 to 6 were asked to identify the first or last letters for a series of spoken words. Youngsters did well when the letter's name was part of the word's pronunciation, such as the "b" in "beech" and the "f" in "deaf." Their performance fell sharply for letters without matching sounds, such as the "b" in "bonus" and the "f" in "loaf." The importance of letter names also appeared in a substantial minority of children who stated that "wife" begins with a "y" and "seem" begins with a "c."

Teachers might take advantage of this tendency by exposing beginning readers first to words in which letter names match sounds, such as "bead," Treiman and her coworkers propose. Instruction could then proceed to the more subtle skill of connecting letters in printed words to speech sounds.
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Title Annotation:research on importance of sounds of letter names in learning to read
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 15, 1996
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