Many parents dread teaching their children how to spell. English is a difficult language that’s not always phonetic, and kids have so many things they’d rather be doing than puzzling over letters! Fortunately, most young children are very interested in their own names. Teaching your child to spell their name is an important part of getting kids interested in reading and writing for themselves.
Stage One: Recognition
Before a child can begin to learn how to spell their name, they have to be able to recognize their name! Although very young babies may turn toward you when they hear the sound of their name, they’re actually responding to the sound of a familiar voice, not demonstrating that they know their name is being called. Children learn that the sound of their name is theirs between the ages of 5 and 7 months. This is around the same time they begin to associate other sounds with concepts.
After children recognize sounds, they’ll have to be taught to recognize letters. By the age of two or three, they should begin to get interested in learning the alphabet. Kids who see their parents or older siblings reading books may develop an especially strong interest in imitating the people they admire! Reading to your children regularly and showing them the words on the page can also help them understand that reading is a fun process.
Stage Two: Association
The next step in the process is teaching children the association between the shapes of letters and their sounds. By the age of 5, most children should be starting the process of understanding that different letters match up with different sounds. They’ll begin to grasp the fact that words start with the same letter as the starting sound.
At this stage in very early literacy, many children will learn the first letter of their name. You can help this process by pointing out the letter when you see it on books and signs. You can also help children with sounding out each letter in a word, then asking them if they can figure out the word’s meaning. For an extra special gift, consider a book that turns the spelling of your child’s name into a personalized story.
At this stage of development, many parents worry about whether their children are learning too slowly. It’s true that some learning disorders, such as dyslexia, can begin showing up in children by this age. However, not all children develop at exactly the same speed, and many kids who seem to be slow to start recognizing letters will catch up to their peers later. If you have concerns about your child’s development, speak with your family doctor.
Stage Three: Understanding
As children head into kindergarten at the age of 5 or 6, they’ll be exposed to a lot of written material. Their teachers may begin reinforcing an understanding of their name by labelling lots of objects around the classroom with their name and picture. As child’s sense of identity develops, they’ll become interested in mastering the spelling of their own name. As a matter of fact, they may become very possessive of spaces like personal cubbies, toys, clothing, and other items they’ve associated with themselves!
At this stage, they’ll be able to read some words out loud without struggling over every letter. Because children are so naturally interested in their names, this should be one of the first words they master! From here, kids can move on to more difficult words they encounter less frequently. After that, they’ll begin to grasp advanced concepts like sentence structure. Within a few years, they should be able to recognize words on sight without sounding out individual letters.