Ask Amma

When to introduce reading the alphabet?

In When on 27 October 2011 at 3:51 am

When should I introduce the alphabet to my child?

– mother of a 4 year old in Mumbai

In modern cities, the alphabet is all around us. Labels, road signs, letterheads & envelopes boast words that come up repeatedly and clue little minds that these symbols mean something worth knowing. If you happen to live away from busy roads, receive little or no mail, and buy unlabelled goods, then hats off to you! To get more ambient exposure to letters and words, you can follow a technique that I have found useful in introducing Telugu – I made signs and put them up all over the house – door, steps, window, rice, beans, clothes, etc.

Of course you can fill the place with signs but if your child is pursuing other interests, don’t expect her to slow down long enough to read them. As long as reading is modeled as an interesting and useful thing to do, it will catch on when the time is right. In fact, once literate, we depend on words for the rest of our lives, so why not cherish the precious pre-literate years when we embrace the world as a whole, not boxed into words, sorted and numbered?

And if you are eager to share the magical worlds that open up via the written word, reading aloud to your child is a lovely way to do it. Many children who are surrounded by readers and who are read to, learn to read just as they learned to talk and walk – without instruction. That “aha moment,” whether in reading or other skills, is worth the wait.

and quantified

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