Montessori Blogs
December 18, 2023

Why You Shouldn't Teach the ABC's to Your Toddler

Break down reading into two skills and find the right way to introduce your child to the letters for them to make the most progress!

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If you’re teaching your toddler the kid’s song “A-B-C-D-E” STOP! The alphabet song might be preventing your kid from learning how to read. In this blog, I’m going explain why and give you a better approach to teaching phonetic sounds.

So what’s the fuss with the alphabet song? And why could it do more harm than good?

Yes, the ABC’s are a great way to introduce your child to the letters. But, as your toddler is learning to read, it could confuse them. As adults, reading comes naturally to us. But for toddlers, we have to break down reading into two skills:

Letter Recognition

Letter recognition skill (as the name suggests) is being able to identify letters by looking at them. By age 3, toddlers should be able to recognize a few letters, usually the letters that start with their own names. The second skill is why the alphabet song might do more harm than good.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is not just recognizing letters, but being able to pronounce the sound they make in words. Take the letter “A” for instance. In the alphabet song, it’s pronounced as “Ayyy.” So, in the song, it’s making the long vowel sound. But, that’s not how it sounds in the words children will learn to read in the beginning, which often use the short vowel sound. It’s usually pronounced as “Ahhh” in words like “C-ah-T,” “B-AH-T,” “AH-pple.” It’s not “C-AY-T,” or “AY-pple.” It’s the same for other letters, “Bee” should be pronounced as “Buh,” Like it “BUH-ALL” or “BUH-T”. And of course, “C,” which should be pronounced as “Cuh” like in “CUH-at” or “CUH-ar”

So, to help your child reading faster, rather than teaching them the Alphabet, what I would do is first teach them the phonetic sounds of the letters. I do this for my son who is 18 months old. He can now pronounce 6 phonetic sounds. It’s also what I do for my students. Then I start introducing them to words that start with those phonetic sounds. It’s fun to go through themes like vegetables or cars with those phonetic sounds.

I have a whole video available in my channel with me doing the phonetic sounds of different vegetables. The picture book highlighted in the video is available on Amazon that you can buy to teach your toddler phonetic sounds using vegetables.

In Montessori, once children have mastered their phonetic sounds, and have an idea of how words are a composition of different letter sounds, they then learn 3-letter words using the “Pink Scheme” to help them progress in their language development. 

Pink Scheme

The Pink Scheme Series introduces children to reading, spelling, and writing three-letter phonetic words. In Montessori, children are taught to spell using moveable alphabets, with consonants colored in red, and vowels in blue. This helps children to understand the role that consonants and vowels play in word formations. To begin teaching them how to spell, you can start off by teaching them how to spell words with 3-letter phonetic sounds. 

These are words like ‘cat’, ‘dog’, ‘bug’, ‘lip’, or ‘hen’. Begin by asking them what’s the beginning sound, the next sound, then the last sound. Now, it’s important for them to learn terms related to sequencing because they will be hearing the words ‘first’, ‘next’ and ‘last’ a lot. Once finished, read the words to them, exaggerating the sounds of the letters as you’re reading them to show how the combination of sounds creates the word. For instance, when you’re reading ‘cat’ you can read it like ‘c-a-t’ this spells cat.

If you want to teach your child how to read quickly using the Montessori method, I have a whole video right here. I share the 5 step system I use to help my child and students learn how to read and spell. I hope to see you there!

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