"Does she know all of her letters?" the pediatrician asked me at my daughter's four year old well-visit. After a pause I had to respond, "I think so, almost all of them, on most days," because I really wasn't sure. I hadn't sat down with flashcards to quiz her and there had been days she this summer she confused k and x. The pediatrician looked up at me for a moment, perhaps wondering what sort of mother doesn't have an immediate working knowledge of her four year old's alphabet skills, and responded with, "They are going to want her to know all of her letters and letter sounds by the time she gets to kindergarten."
Well, yes, I suppose they do want that, but there are plenty of kids who don't know their letters and the sounds. I'm pretty sure that before she goes to kindergarten she'll work out her confusion between x and k, and if not then we'll break out some significant teaching strategies to help her learn the difference. "She will. I'm not worried," is what I told my pediatrician, but what I really wanted to tell her was about all the other early reading signs my daughter is mastering.
I wanted to tell her how my daughter loves to play with words, isolating the initial sound and telling me what letter a word begins with. I wanted to tell her how my daughter loves pointing to words within a text- even when we are reading a chapter book. She loves working on her one to one correspondence, making each word I say match her finger. She loves finding environmental print and reading signs to us "Target," "CVS," "Zinga." She plays with rhymes constantly and will yell out rhymes from the back of the car when we think she's deep in thought. What about her love of books and stories, how she loves being read to, loves looking at the pages of her favorite books, and loves making up her own stories?
Perhaps I'm just a proud parent, but there is so much more to reading readiness than simply knowing the alphabet. I'm OK with a few letter confusions if the other components of literacy are coming along.
The alphabet is an easy piece of knowledge to question in the doctor's office, and even on kindergarten entry assessments. But reading is so much more than that. It's so complex- each little component our children need to grasp before true reading comes together. I'm not ready to quiz my daughter on her letter knowledge. Not yet. She has time. But I am ready to encourage word play, rhyming games, one to one matching, a love of books, and lots and lots of read alouds.