Spanish and English share many letter sounds, D, F, L, R, etc. These shared letter sounds provide an advantageous ABC learning opportunity starting point for Latino kindergartners from Spanish speaking homes.  However, this valuable asset remains untouched in classrooms today.

Instead, Latino kindergartners are faced with ESL requirements to memorize picture names to English-only visual image examples. Kindergartners then, much farther down the line, learn the beginning letter sounds. This is presently what kindergarten teachers call teaching the ABCs, but it is really ESL instruction. ABC instruction done in this manner is an erroneous practice that results in children learning English vocabulary and picture names and completely missing the lesson on beginning sounds.

There is a solution! The answer is not that the kids ‘have got to learn English’ either. Instead, for real ABC literacy success, kindergarten teachers need to capitalize on the many shared letter sounds in both Spanish and English and use appropriate examples accordingly. Instead of focusing on teaching kindergartners the English name for the visual examples teachers should focus on Cognate examples (B is for BICYCLE/bicicleta) and asking students, ‘What pictures begin alike?’

For much too long the attention in ABC lessons has been misplaced on learning English. Instead we need teachers to refocus on the task at hand: teaching kindergartners beginning letter sounds.

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