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.

The other important thing in working with young children is to teach clearly one thing at a time, isolating the difficulty of learning. The most essential thing about a letter is its sound. The most common form of a letter is lowercase. When teaching a child, therefore, the most effective way to help them is to teach them the sound of the letter as the name of the letter in lowercase form, “This letter says /a/.” Another example would be, “This is the letter /a/.  Say /a/  /a/  apple.” Children do not need to know about UPPERCASE letters until they start reading.

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 CAPITAL letters require two or more strokes to write. UPPERCASE “A,” for example, uses three strokes, whereas the lowercase letter “a” can be written in one movement without lifting the pencil. Lowercase letters flow. CAPITAL letters have many breaks in them. Most importantly, writing with all UPPERCASE is teaching improper grammar skills because, in the real world, only 5% of what we write is in UPPERCASE 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.