Language researchers say traditional alphabet books are confusing for kids

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A speech and language researcher says a lot of students in early grades don’t know the alphabet and how they are taught is part of the problem.

Denyse Hayward, associate professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Educational Psychology, conducted a literacy test of more than 1,000 Canadian students aged three to eight, between 2012 and 2014.

“When we went across Canada we found that many children who were Kindergarten age and Grade 1 age, and even some Grade 2 children, did not have very good alphabet knowledge, which we would certainly assume – particularly by the time they were in Grade 1 or Grade 2 – that they would at least know their letter names and many of the common sounds that they represented,” Hayward said.

“We were a little bit surprised by that.”

Hayward considers traditional alphabet books a big part of the problem. She says many of them aren’t based on literacy research or include features that provide kids with an easy introduction to their ABCs.

Watch below: Denyse Hayward says many alphabet books don’t present letters with common sounds that make learning the alphabet easier for kids.





The researcher and her colleague Linda Phillips have published Alphabet Stage in response. The book offers young readers the chance to trace the font, relate to each character with a memorable illustration and review each letter as they turn the pages.

“We know that alphabetic knowledge is really critical for reading and writing success but also your vocabulary knowledge and your oral language development, and so we’ve really worked hard in this book to provide parents and children access to all of those aspects that will help them become, hopefully, good readers and writers.”

Alphabet Stage is available at Amazon.ca or at Audrey’s Books in Edmonton.

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