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J Exp Child Psychol. 2004 Jul;88(3):213-33.

Knowing letter names and learning letter sounds: a causal connection.

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Department of Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel 31905, Haifa, Israel.


Two experiments tested the common assumption that knowing the letter names helps children learn basic letter-sound (grapheme-phoneme) relation because most names contain the relevant sounds. In Experiment 1 (n=45), children in an experimental group learned English letter names for letter-like symbols. Some of these names contained the corresponding letter sounds, whereas others did not. Following training, children were taught the sounds of these same "letters." Control children learned the same six letters, but with meaningful real-word labels unrelated to the sounds learned in the criterion letter-sound phase. Differences between children in the experimental and control groups indicated that letter-name knowledge had a significant impact on letter-sound learning. Furthermore, letters with names containing the relevant sound facilitated letter-sound learning, but not letters with unrelated names. The benefit of letter-name knowledge was found to depend, in part, on skill at isolating phonemes in spoken syllables. A second experiment (n=20) replicated the name-to-sound facilitation effect with a new sample of kindergarteners who participated in a fully within-subject design in which all children learned meaningless pseudoword names for letters and with phoneme class equated across related and unrelated conditions.

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