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Child Dev. 1998 Dec;69(6):1524-40.

The foundations of literacy: learning the sounds of letters.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


Learning the sounds of letters is an important part of learning to read and spell. To explore the factors that make some letter-sound correspondences easier for children to learn than others, we first analyzed knowledge of letters' sounds (and names) by 660 children between 3 1/2 and 7 1/2 years old. A second study examined pre-schoolers' (M age 4 years, 11 months) ability to learn various sound-letter mappings. Together, the results show that an important determinant of letter-sound knowledge is whether the sound occurs in the name of the letter and, if so, whether it is at the beginning or the end. The properties of the sound itself (consonant versus vowel, sonorant versus obstruent, stop versus continuant) appear to have little or no influence on children's learning of basic letter-sound correspondences. The findings show that children use their knowledge of letters' names when learning the letters' sounds rather than memorizing letter-sound correspondences as arbitrary pairings.

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