The idea for this blog entry came to me when my 4-year-old great niece identified an uppercase E as an M. I realized she was seeing an M turned on its side. I remembered reading that many children struggle with letter identification because some letters change their identity when rotated or flipped. A stapler is a stapler even when held upside down. A book is a book even when it is flipped over. However, a d is a b when it is flipped, and it is a p when it is rotated.
While thinking about how letters look to children, I remembered the group of 1st graders who helped me learn to make a k correctly last year. It was important to them that I learn how to make letters just right. My mind moved on to an letter identification assessment I had given using a page of handwritten letters. The kindergartner could not identify several letters and told me he had never seen them before. I finally saw the page through his eyes and discovered the troublesome ones had been written with more cursive curves. I decided to type the list using a grade school font. He didn't miss a single one.
I have often wondered if the font used in most children's books confuses children, especially the letters a and g. Until today, I thought that we should introduce children to both the letters we want them to write and the ones we want them to read. However, an idea in a blog caught my eye this morning. The recommendation was that teachers should be less helpful, meaning teachers should let kids do and discover more for themselves. Perhaps a great way for kids to discover fonts for themselves is by finding and sharing letters that look different.