Is Your Reader Reversing Alphabet Letters? Here's The Cure.

Confusing p with q, or reversing alphabet letters b and d are the most common letter recognition roadblocks. This may surprise you. Many young readers are totally stumped by a and g in print. For flipped letters (which I saw most often in my 3 boys)I gave them some visual landmarks. Here are some mechanical and audio ones you might try.

First, why does a landmark work? It is a lot like using a landmark to remember where to turn when driving.

I used to visit a friend who lived in a neighborhood with a marked entrance. To me, it looked just like every other entrance. The builder might disagree. I am not insulting him or her. I needed a number landmark. I remembered "It's the second entrance of the two that look just alike."

You are trying to do the same thing with your reader who is reversing alphabet letters.

mechanical landmarks: Anchor the letter position to the writing hand. For right-handers "The b stick faces away from your hand."

The d stick faces (or is closest to) your hand." Reverse for left-handers.

(The ball and stick refer to the straight part /l/ and round part /o/ of the letters b and d). It's in the diagram : )

Sound or Audio memory joggers: Point to the tall (stick) part of the letter "b" and say "Stick". Then point to the small round (ball) part of the letter "b" and say "ball". Then say "Stickball, b"

You are describing the order in which the parts of the letter b appear. First, you see the stick and then the ball. Stick ball is an urban version of baseball. The better for kids to remember!

Baffled by a and g?

Your eyes just gloss over a print "a" and "g". These are enormously different from the hand written version. Your young beginner may be baffled when they see these two letters in print. They are thinking you have slipped in some new, secret letter.

Explain this as "computer a and computer g" or use a Futura font. This makes hand-writing-shaped g's and a's. Be careful though because it writes l and capital I with no distinction. We had to mix fonts in so that a, g, l and I would all make sense to very young, beginner readers.

More Font-Confused Letters

I have also had a very detailed child who seemed to be mixing up and reversing alphabet letter a lot! This young reader was in fact confused by different fonts used day to day as we read various story books. To him, going from New Times Roman to Schoolbook was like switching to a new alphabet.

I figured this out one day after writing, by hand, all the alphabet letters twice. Once, in order and once mixed up. My child knew them cold. Confused (me that is), we went back to reading picture books.

In the book my son could not identify an "f". I pointed back to the two hand-written "f"'s he just named. I encouraged him that he did know this letter name. He explained, "This is not the same letter. The one in the book has a line under it." Case closed.

One More Confused Alphabet Letter Cure

Upper and lower case letters are almost one in the same to most adults. They are completely different "animals" to children. If a child is confusing letters, stick to all upper case or all lower case for a while.

Normally, lower case works best. They are smaller and harder to draw, yes. Still they are what you see most often. You can add upper case later.

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