Using Uppercase Letters When First Teaching Children to Read and Write
By Richard Colombini, MA
We’re Fascinated With Teaching Children Using UPPERCASE Letters
The American educational system has a fascinating attachment with the use of UPPERCASE letters when teaching the alphabet and reading skills to young children. Just search the word “alphabet” in Google, then click on “images”. You’ll see how many images of uppercase alphabets appear. Very few show both forms of the letters. It’s a mystery why teachers primarily use uppercase letters to teach with when a whopping 95% of the written word is lowercase!
Is Rome to Blame for Our Uppercase Attachment?
When we look back our ancient Roman heritage, we’ll see they only used capital letters until around the 4th century. When carving letters in stone, the letter “A”, for example, was easier to hammer out than the letter “a”. This still could be an influence today. However, the reasons why we use uppercase are really not as important as the gains we could realize by shifting this paradigm.
Shifting Out of The Uppercase Paradigm
Since 95% of written text is in lowercase, it makes sense to teach young children aspiring readers lowercase letters first. It’s illogical and ineffective to teach with capital letters when only 5% of the written word is capitalized. We’re not in ancient Rome carving letters out of stone anymore, so it’s time to change this paradigm and start teaching with lowercase letters.
Another issue with capital letters is most require two or more strokes to write. The uppercase letter “A”, for example, uses three strokes, whereas the lowercase letter “a” can be written in one movement without lifting the pencil. Lowercase letters flow. Uppercase letters have many breaks in them.
There are those who would argue that uppercase letters are easier and faster for children to write. This may be true in the short run, but not in the long run because for experienced writers, lowercase letters are faster and more efficient to write. Most importantly, writing with all uppercase is teaching improper grammar skills because in the real world, only 5% of what we write is in capital letters!
Let’s give up the old paradigm of teaching capital letters first, unless of course you’re training your child to read Madison Avenue advertisements instead of good literature.