The written English language is an alphabetic language — it is made up of letters that are codes or symbols for the various sounds in words. Learning the letters of the alphabet and the sounds that are associated with them are the crucial first steps in reading.

Children who can recognise the letters of the alphabet in print and know at least the most common sounds associated with each letter (some letters have more than one sound in words, especially the vowels), will have an advantage when they begin school.

Knowing the alphabet and understanding that words are made up of letters in a way that is mostly predictable is an essential concept for children to grasp. Although children have a natural in-born capacity for speech, making sense of written language is a highly complex skill.

For some children, learning the alphabet is easy. Others will take much longer and will need more exposure, more repetition, and more practice.

Learning the alphabet is vital but it can also be fun. Fortunately there are many entertaining books, games and videos that have been created specifically for this purpose.

This page provides some tips and activities parents can use to help children learn the alphabet and letter sounds, as well as links to videos, games and apps.

They have been carefully selected to reflect research on how children develop reading skills. They can be adapted for children of all ages from babies to the first few years of school. Even children who have not yet begun to speak can identify and point to shapes and letters before they can say them.

Reading with children is a vital activity and a special section of this site has been set up to guide parents in shared reading so it is as enjoyable and beneficial as possible.

Click here for online games and apps

Click here for videos