My (Almost) 5 Year Old Has Absolutely No Letter Recognition Skills. Help!

Updated on August 02, 2011
C.W. asks from Bulls Gap, TN
19 answers

My daughter is about to start her 2nd year of preschool (Headstart) and I have been working with her everyday for weeks now on her alphabet to make sure she's ready to go back and not be behind. I'm still at a stand-still. I use the fun workbooks, flashcards, leapster games, etc; and nothing seems to help. I try to work on just a few at a time so I don't overwhelm her too and after 4 days I can get her to say A,B,C,D with me and afterwards when I hold up just one letter she can't tell me which one it is. I'm starting to get very worried that theres more to it. We already have her in speech therapy because her speech is about 6-9months behind where it should be. (I hope theres not something really wrong because she knows her shapes, colors, and most of her numbers like most kids her age.)

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

I have taken may of your suggestions and have slowed it down to one letter every few days. Within about a week and a half she is pointing out letters in books, and on signs, etc. It has made me VERY happy to have some kind of progress. I'm going to talk it over with her preschool teachers also and let them know we've had some difficulty and see if they think I need to go ahead and have her tested for dyslexia or just see how it rides out for a month or two in class. I do believe the letter factory dvd worked for her too, as soon as she watched it she came up to me and pointed out an A in her school workbook and then pointed out the B on her older sister's Justin Beiber backpack. My husband also got her the Leapfrog Number dvd too and her counting skills got sooo much better than they were. They're miracle dvds! Thank you all so much for your help. It's greatly appreciated!

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

I don't think she is behind. My son is 5.5 and going to Kindergarten. He didn't know all the letters last summer (he knew some). They spent all year in preK learning the letters, 1 per week. Now he knows them pretty well. My son isn't reading yet though I think a few of his classmates may be. Just keep pointing out the letters when you see them. If you are driving she can look for a specific letter on a sign. In the store she can look on packages. There are also plenty of games, books and activities available too.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

You can also have her trace the letters in sand or shaving cream. (Tons of fun if you can stand the mess!) Sometimes, the tactile connection really helps.

Lots of great ideas here. She'll get it! Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Charlotte on


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Leapfrog Letter Factory got my daughter recognizing letters at 2! I can't say enough about that DVD!!! Just play it over and over with snacks ;) I wish that DVD was out when my son was younger, it really works!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Your solution is the DVD The Letter Factory by Leapfrog. Both of my kids love that movie. My 2 year-old can bring me magnetic letters from the fridge...I tell her to get the "D" and she brings it to me. My 4 year old is reading (well). Get the DVD!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

She's ONLY going into preschool. Letter recognition going into kindergarten is considered a bonus to teachers. There are always children who know their letters, and some who are early readers even... but it's not expected. Your daughter is not behind or struggling with her letters. You have nothing to worry about right now in that regard.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Daytona Beach on

my sons preschool does a letter a week. they concentrate on just the one. they sound it out. write it on the kids hands in Big case and lower case. they sound it out and say a word that starts with the letter. maybe it's too methodical for her. get or make a memory game and write the letters on it. start with all capitals, then do lower case and then mix them. when she flips them over have her try to say them or say it for her "oh look, you found the "c", can you find the other "c"?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I'm with Rachel Y on this one. During my son's second year of preschool they did 2 or 3 letters each month. He just turned 5 a couple of days ago, so we've decided to opt for a PreK program and let him start Kindergarten when he's 6. He knows most of his letters most of the time. We watch "Super Why" occasionally, so that helps.

I think she's fine. See what she learns this year, and let her teachers know you are concerned. They can talk to you about the curriculum for this year and also let you know what they observe. They are there to help you, so let them help you prepare her for kindergarten.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

When my daughter started kindergarten at age 5.5, she only recognized 8 letters and by January that year had aced them all. Teachers I think have different ways of teaching them and making it fun, plus it helps when their peers are learning alongside them, the other kids want to keep up with each other. My daughter is fairly lazy academically, what helped was the letter/symbol/letter sound alphabet (a ah apple, b ba ball, c ca cat, d da dog, etc).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I focused on only one letter per week and my daughter knows all but two letters of the alphabet by sight. We are going to do a review of those two letters before school starts.

Here are some things we did for the Letter H.

I cut out pink and red hearts out of construction paper and she glued them on a 11 x 17 piece of white paper. Heart was the shape of the week since it starts with H.

I checked out a few books from the library:

Hansel and Gretel
Horton Hears a Who
Hop on Pop
How Will I Ever Sleep in This Bed?
How to Heal a Broken Wing
Heart to Heart
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg
Hansel and Diesel
Cat in the Hat
We already had: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

She put a heart window cling on the window and two H's on as well. She put H magnets on the refrigerator.

One day, her friend came over and they both rode around on their stick "Horses" and played Hide and Seek and for lunch, they both had turkey sandwiches on Hawaiian bread and drank Hawaiian punch.
During the week, we ate hot dogs, hamburgers, she had Nutella (made with Hazelnuts) on wheat bread for breakfast. We drank Hot Chocolate. This was during the winter time that we did this letter.

I printed out the H outline and my daughter and her friend used bingo markers and dotted all the circles of the outline. They did a Letter Poking activity too.

On another day, I made chocolate haystacks for a treat. I enjoyed them way more than she did though. LOL!

We played Hopscotch and Hula Hoop outside.

I cut out out a large capital H and made a house with it. I cut out a lower case h and we made a horse. The idea came from Totally Tots. They have super cute ideas on that site.

She worked on all the curriculum type books throughout the week. Tracing a writing the letter H from those books.

We watched Happy Feet and The Cat in the Hat Knows All About That.

There were so many great ideas for the Letter H that we did not get around to doing them all.

I wanted to play Hair Salon with her and let her play her harmonica and do some kind of craft with a hole puncher but time ran out.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Does she recognize McDonald's and the Big Yellow M?

Is there a local grocery store you always shop at? What is the first letter? These are the things she will recognize and associate something with..

When she sees the first letter of her name, does she recognize that it is "her letter?"

This is how we started.. We would drive by a McDonalds eveery day and our daughter would say, M is for McDonalds.. The I would ask her to look for more "M"s"..

Our local grocery store is H.E>B. so she learned those letters pretty fast once she started understanding letters..

Her first letter was easy to find so she was good at finding or spotting it..

Take it easy, until she can put it together with one letter, it will not all come together for her. Just take it one letter at a time.. maybe per week..

Have that letter on the wall, on her door, in the car, in the bathtub with shaving cream.. Make the letter out of cheerios..

Also I am not a natural teacher.. I am just kind of an observer and try to match up ideas with how my child is motivated and her interests.. I still do this and she is going to be a senior in college..

I think you are doing great. You can keep her interested.. and that is 95% of this teaching and learning time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think the most important thing is to be proactive and identify if there are learning challenges -- as early intervention is the key to overcoming them and to best supporting your child. I would not be ruled by the fear that something is "really wrong " -- rather understand that there is a whole spectrum of learning issues , and the sooner you identify what is specifically going on with your child, the more she is likely to thrive.

Certainly, the fact that she has speech delays, coupled with the concerns you express -- would indicate that a full developmental assessment is in order. Please speak to your pediatrician, and her preschool teachers -- and aggressively pursue a full understanding of her issues.

Many states have wonderful resources for kid's with learning issues --and can offer them support/tutoring/therapy during the preschool years, and can continue as a support system once kindergarten begins. You should take full advantage of whatever the opportunities are for your child -- and you will not have access to those resources unless you have have a full assessment.

I certainly disagree with those posts that suggest you simply not worry and try another educational technique. You have been diligent, it is not a question of how you are introducing the information.

I also disagree that it is considered a "bonus" to have letter recognition in kindergarten. Virtually all kindergarten children will have letter recognition and sound recognition. Most will be able to write all their letters, and some will be able to read to some extent. By the end of kindergarten, a certain degree of literacy is the goal. If she is still struggling with letter recognition, she will experience much frustration .

The best thing you can do is to realize that a full assessment is in her best interest You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don't wait to take action until she is so frustrated that her self esteem is impacted. Get ahead of the situation by being fully proactive and fully supporting the specific needs of your child

All the best to you

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

You can buy a set of magnetic letters from Walmart or almost any dollar store for a dollar. They have sets of the bath tub foam letters...sing songs, make it a game, point out letters when you drive, when you read...have her trace and say the letters...start with the letters in her name, post the alphabet up where you can see it and sing the alphabet song. We have made an alphabet bingo game, we play a matching game with upper and lower case many ways you can work on it without it seeming like work = ) Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

Here is a shocker for you. My son was able to recognize letters at an extremely early age... the surprising catalyst "Wheel of Fortune". When he was very young he would sit with his great grandmother every evening and watch wheel of fortune. I would have never thought that it would have the impact that it did. It has been many many years, and I still remember how excited he would be over the letters X and W.. I guess maybe they sounded funny or looked strange but it worked for him so maybe you can try it as well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

i think you have every reason to be concerned, BUT have you considered that she knows the letters and just isn't interested in going over it with you? kids can be really "funny" that way! talk to her ST about it, and i'd consider having her evaluated be a developmentalist(contact your pedi or school district for a referral). all 3 of my kids(and 1 is on the autism spectrum) knew their letter before they were 2, and i'll admit it, i did NOT work with them or drill them on letters. they learned from the leapfrog letter factory dvd! it's about $7 at target - go get it now! they also all have played with the leapfrog magnet sets, which has reinforced their letter learning skills - by 2.5, i'd say they all knew their letters and corresponding sounds. she's got anoter year of preschool ahead of her, and they REALLY should have had her there by now regardless of whether or not you are working with her. i bet with a little more work, and the help of the leapfrog dvds, she'll be just fine :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Have her checked for dyslexia, espically since you already have her in speech therapy. She can get added help if she is, espically once she starts kindergarden (school should set up an IEP -individualized education plan - with some one on one help during school hours).

I was/am dyslexic and had two years of speech therapy when I was in K and first grades. Was diagnosed moderately dyslexic with some auditory processing issues in kindergarden - there's a strong family history of it running in my family (dad, grandfather, aunt, cousins). In fact my parents held me back so I did a second year of first grade just so that I wouldn't be behind academically and struggle in second grade. Probably the best decision. But like your daughter, at 5y I knew my shapes/colors/numbers ect, just couldn't get the letters and talked horribly. I couldn't even spell my own name, couldn't remember my phone number or my address for that matter either.

best wishes! and btw... its a struggle, but she'll eventually learn how to cope. keep encouraging her!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think you are right to be concerned. I agree it's not critical for her to know them while still in preschool but it does sound like you've been working on them a lot so it's not unreasonable to have some concern, especially as she already has some speech issues. I would discuss with you're pediatrician. Also I think a great resource are the teacher's in the preschool - they know what's normal for a child your daughters age & they should be able to access if she's falling behind or recommend that she be evaluated. If you have a sense that something is off, trust your instinct! Bottom line is that if there was an issue, it's better to get out in front of it as early intervention tends to be more successful. I think you should try the suggestions the other moms mentioned but still discuss with her teachers & pediatrician. You know your child more than anyone & she may just need a little extra help but it's better to find out now what kind of extra help that may be to ensure success moving forward.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on is a great website. My son knew about 10 letters before and once we started that site, he learned the rest in about two weeks.

Also, there are a lot of ways to make learning letters fun without using flashcards and workbooks, since those can feel too much like work to a kid. Get them more involved in their learning by pointing things out when you read to her and signs you see on the street.

I sell Discovery Toys and we have two really wonderful games for helping kids learn their letters. I really hope you will check them out.

ABSeas is a fishing game where children use magnetic fishing poles to try to catch the letters they need to complete their game board. Once she masters matching the uppercase to uppercase letters, flip the board over and match upper to lowercase letters. When she's a little bit older, you can even use the letters to start spelling simple words and building on the skills she already has.

Letter Fun Lotto is a bingo game that uses the Discovery Toys "Hidden Letter" pictures (developed by an early childhood educator) to help kids learn letter recognition. The picture cues give them confidence and not only teach letter recognition, but also help them start to develop their phonics skills and letter sounds (ex: the "S" card has a picture of a Snake).

Both are really wonderful games. I hope you'll check them out on my website.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Some kids don't develop that skill until later. It won't hurt to work on it but try to make sure she doesn't feel like she's having to do it over and over because she has something wrong with her. My hubby has a way above average IQ and could not read until after 1st grade. His grandmother in SLC read the Book of Mormon to him the Summer after he finished 1st grade and everything finally clicked. He read better than anyone in his class when he went home. They wanted to fail him and make him do 1st grade over but his mom said no, that he would eventually get it and she was right.

The head start teachers should keep you up to date and make an appointment for some referrals if she continues and is not up to her level of development.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions