Ask Dr. Blank: Why should a parent NOT name the letters?

This question came in to our Reading Kingdom website:

Why should the parent NOT name the letters?

There are a number of reasons, but the first one that comes to my mind is that many children have what are termed “naming” problems.

This is a complex area of research, but it means children have difficulty in the speed and accuracy with which they can name objects and other visual material. If their limited naming resources are used for naming letters, it actually interferes with their naming the words they read. In addition, naming actually leads to a lessening of visual memory.One can easily identify visual material without naming it.

For example, people easily recognize the person at the cash register even though they do not know her name. In other words, naming is useful for conversing about an absent object, but naming does not allow you to see more clearly objects (like letters) that are directly in front of you. That requires object recognition and that is quite a different skill from naming.

In addition, because the “name” of a letter is often not the sound that the letter makes when used in context, knowing the “name” of that letter doesn’t help a child to know what sound that letter makes. For instance, consider the letter “a” or “ay” as it’s pronounced. That letter can appear in words where it has the sound “ay” as in “ate” but it can also be in words such as beat, attend, beautfiul, bread and so on.

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