Letter and Early Word Recognition

Preschool-age children can begin to recognize some printed alphabet letters and words, especially the ones in their own names. Many children learn the names of the letters first by singing the alphabet song or reciting them to pushes on the swing. At three and four they begin to attach the names of letters to their shapes. With help, they may soon begin to attend to beginning letters in words that they are familiar with in printed form.


Help children to find the initial letter of their own names. Many three-year-olds delight in identifying “their letter” printed in signs and on labels in the world around them.

Write, display, and point out the child’s name often. Print it on their artwork and help them recognize it. As children get older, help them learn to recognize additional words they frequently see printed in the world around them: for example, a word on a favorite t-shirt, “STOP” in stop signs, and other favorites such as “zoo,” “mom,” and “dad.”

Watch TV programs such as Sesame Street with your child and learn the letter songs with them.

The Most Important Letter

Three-year-old Cara has just discovered the first letter in her name and suddenly she is in a world of “Cs.” Walking around the house, clutching the letter “C” from her alphabet block set, she is on the lookout. “Hey, there’s my C,” she cries pointing to a tin of cocoa in the kitchen. She notices the letter again, when she and her babysitter are reading a book about cats. Later that day, while riding on the bus, she looks out the window and calls out excitedly, “There’s my letter!” while passing by a large neon sign for Carl’s Restaurant.“There’s my C!”

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