Step Two to Reading - The Alphabetic Principle

Building the Reading Foundation

phoneme blending

Once children have demonstrated that they can isolate the beginning sounds of words, your young learner's next foundational step in learning to read is introducing the alphabetic principle (phonics). Mastery of this skill means your child is the able to understand that letters are used to represent the sounds of speech. In their book, Road to the Code, Benita Blachman Ph.D. and Eileen Ball Ph.D. tell us that successful educators need to help their students learn how the letters of the alphabet constitute speech. It's time for phonics.

Be sure to use our checklist to find exactly where your child is at in reading, where any gaps may be and the right materials to use.

Phonics involves speech sounds and how they correspond to written letter or letter combinations. In their book, ABCs of CBM, Michelle and John L. Hosp and Kenneth W. Howell tell is that pupils who are able to distinguish letter sounds and read simple words in preschool and first grade are much more likely to perform better later on in higher grades.

English can be difficult to learn because there's not always a simple and direct correspondence between letters and sounds:

  • English has 44 phonemes but only 26 letters in its alphabet;
  • Letters can contain more than a single phoneme, such as the vowels all having a short and long sound;
  • Some phonemes may be made up of more than just one letter. The /k/ sound, for example, may be represented by a single 'k', single 'c', a 'c' and 'k' together or even a 'c' and 'h' together as in the word 'echo';
  • There are two letter combinations such as 'ch', 'sh', 'wh', 'th', where the two letters say one phoneme (sound).

Keeping this in mind, the best way how to start teaching your child the alphabetic principle is to introduce the most common sound for each letter. Even though the letter 'c' can say /c/ as in 'car', and /s/ as in 'city', it's best to teach the most common sound of the letter 'c', which is /c/. When your child has mastered these common letter sounds and is reading phonetic 3- and 4-letter words, your child can then begin learning the alternate sounds that letters make.

Teaching young children just one sound per letter is important at first because you avoid confusion and build solid beginning reading skills. Many studies have shown that difficulty linking letters with their sounds is the number one source of reading difficulties for many children. GR Lyon, in "Journal of Learning Disabilities", states that students who struggle with reading area hesitant with frequent starts and stops and many mispronunciations.

You can free your child from struggle and frustration simply by following the recommendations we outlined here and using our products below, which are based on this phonics principle.

Guidelines for Teaching This Principle

Here are some important guidelines to consider when working with a beginning or struggling reader. These will help give them a firm grasp of the alphabetic principle:

Present Only Letter Sounds that are the Most Common

There are 10 letter symbols that create numerous separate sounds. Additionally, certain letter sounds may be expressed by various letters or letters that are combined together. However, you should wait until your child has mastered the common letter sounds before introducing these more advanced concepts. First, help your student grow a solid working proficiency of the fundamentals before going onto higher level learning.

Only Teach with Lowercase Letters to Begin With

95% of written text is comprised of lowercase letter symbols and just 5% is made up of capital letters. At this stage in reading development, it's just sound judgment to present lowercase letters exclusively. Also, it helps avoid puzzling your child with various forms for the same letter.

Give the Sound of the Letter Rather than the Name of the Letter

It's vital to work on what's most relevant. In this particular situation, regardless of the powerful cultural model of teaching the name of the letter, you'll be far more successful teaching the sound of the letter. Many teachers throughout the world, particularly in Montessori schools, have enormous successes training their early students the letter symbol by its sound as if it were the name of the letter.

Make Use of "Key" Images together with Letter Symbols

This means working with a consistent letter symbol paired with an object, for example, presenting the letter 'a' coupled with an 'apple'. Your child can utilize his previously acquired phonemic knowledge to detect the first sound of this word, the /a/ of 'apple', and then, by association, detect the alphabet letter.

An example of the process of working with our products is: The child views the 'a' letter on the card matched with an image of 'apple'. Next, he detects the /a/ sound as the beginning letter and says /a/.

To proper use and learn this next step, it's important for youngsters to be able to utilize their previously obtained phonemic awareness skills to work out this association independently with the help of a key picture couple with each letter. Later on, various matching activities can be introduced such as matching letters initially to the key picture then to other images that begin with the same sounds as key images.

Our Tested and Proven Products You Need to Teach the Alphabetic Principle

Letter Sound Alphabet Cards

 letter sound alphabet cards
Clip Art or Photo Images
English and Spanish Language Cards - PDF downloads

These lessons help emergent readers learn the first sound that each letter makes, which is the initial building block in the reading foundation you're helping your child build. Each letter is associated with a picture. Your child holds the card and says, "a a apple" and so on to reinforce each letter sound. These lessons include complete instructions for assembly and use. 26 English cards. 31 Spanish cards.

It's vital that your child be given the proper sequence of lessons for learning letter sounds. They must be produced with special care to ensure that each letter has a matching image for the beginning letter sound that contains no consonant blends. For example, we use images such as: fish for letter 'f'. We do not use words such as frog for the 'f' because the 'f' and 'r' sounds are blended together - the 'f' sound is not isolated. Most lessons on the market fail to use correct letter sound isolation.

Alphabet Cards with Clip Art Images, 26 Cards

Alphabet Cards with Photo Images, 26 Cards

Alphabet Cards with Photo Images, Spanish, 31 Cards

Phonics Game Apps Help Your Child Master the Sounds of Letters

ABC MAGIC PHONICS 1 letter sound game app


Children will learn the sounds of the English Alphabet. This foundational app will help your child learn the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, which are necessary for reading. Learning the sounds of the letters gives your child the tools for reading and helps them become better readers later in development. Each letter is matched with a phonetic photo image to help your child develop the neuro connetion of the sound to the image.

Free download from iTunes Store

Free download from Mac App Store (plays on Macintosh computers)

kids game app - ABC MAGIC PHONICS 2


Builds on the skills learned in ABC MAGIC PHONICS 1. Children learn to discriminate which letter sound combinations match carefully chosen phonetic pictures and in the process, develop strong phonemic awareness.

Free trial version download

Full version download

ABC MAGIC PHONICS 3 letter sounds app


Letter Sound Matching

This app helps your child master the letter-sound connection. It uses four different games to help your child develop and reinforce their knowledge of the sound each letter makes. Each game involves seeing letters and hearing sounds. Your child learns to choose which sounds do or do not match the letter(s) being shown.

Free trial version download

Full version download

 learn the sounds letters make with ABC MAGIC PHONICS 4 app


This app tests your child and helps to master the letter/sound connection. It features four new and fun games that help your child learn quickly and reinforces their knowledge of the sound each letter makes. This app challenges your child by not having the letters say their sounds when touched.

Free trial version download

Full version download

ABC MAGIC PHONICS 5 app for connecting letter sounds


Connecting Sounds, Letters and Pictures

This stand-alone app includes 10 lessons that help your child practice all the key areas of the alphabetic principle. Letter sounds, letter symbols and letter usage are all used in various combinations to provide your child an in-depth experience and practice of the functions and usage of letters.

Free (limited play) download

Free trial version download from Mac App Store (plays on Macintosh computers)

Full version download

ABC MAGIC PHONICS 6 - letter sound memory match game app


Memory Match

This stand-alone app is is designed for advanced beginners. It includes 11 game variations that help your child practice all the key areas of the alphabetic principle. Letter sounds, letter symbols and letter usage are all used in various combinations to provide your child an in-depth experience of the function and usage of letters.

Free trial version download

Full version download

Sound Beginnings letter sounds game app

Sound Beginnings

Children Master Blending, Segmenting and Reading 3-Letter Short Vowel Words

This game app teaches your child to listen for and discriminate the beginning, middle and ending sounds of words. Has 12 different and fun game combinations to challenge your child and help them develop strong phonemic awareness. This is the most advanced letter sounds app in the Preschool University letter series. It includes games for beginners and advanced learners.

Free trial version download

Free trial version download from Mac App Store (plays on Macintosh computers)

Full version download