Learning, Leading, and Loving Literacy

Parents of young children often see writing come home from school and become very concerned about letter and word reversals. The truth about letter reversals is that they are very normal for developing readers and writers and can be corrected with lots of positive practice and some easy strategies.  The following information is from an article on About.com.  The full article can be accessed here:


Should I be concerned?

Parents and teachers may become concerned when a child reverses letters or words: writing b’s instead of d’s, “tac” instead of “cat” and so on. The truth of the matter is that most beginner readers/writers will make reversals; it’s not all that uncommon. It’s very common for young children up to age seven to reverse the letters “b” and “d” and “p” and “q.” Some researchers find that this is due to immaturity in brain development. Others have found that the students simply don’t pay too much attention to the way letters are oriented.

When children first learn to write they frequently have letter reversals. Many children continue to have reversed letters in first and second grade. It is not uncommon or unusual to see children 4, 5, 6 and even 7 years of age making letter and/or letter reversals. There may be a need for some concern if a child continues with letter reversals or mirror reading/writing into and beyond the 3rd grade.

Letter/word reversals are, for the most part, due to a weak memory, the lack of enough previous experiences, or a lack of left-right awareness. Many myths surround the children who make reversals such as: the child is learning disabled; the child has some type of neurological dysfunction; or the child will become dyslexic. Dyslexics often have many reading/writing errors including reversals so this theory is difficult to prove. However, very little research has been done regarding the matter of reversals.

The best way to address the issue of reversals is to have children practice correct formation and to give them strategies for preventing themselves from writing the letters in reverse in the first place. Habitually repeating an error causes it to become well-established, just as habitually repeating a correct response causes it to become well established.  Talk to your kids about how some letters are “tricky” and you have to think about them before you write them.

  • Have an alphabet chart handy for kids to look at as they write
  • If a letter is difficult to form, practice writing it in many places (on paper, on a whiteboard, on a sidewalk with chalk).  Model how to make the letter and then coach as you allow your child to try it.
  • Have your kids practice on an iPad or iPhone using an app like LetterSchool http://letterschool.com/

The most commonly reversed letters are b and d.  At NSES, we teach children to “make your bed” as they read and write to check if a letter is a b or a d.  I like this trick because it uses your hands and you always have your hands with you (as opposed to a chart).  Below is a picture of how to make your bed with your hands:

Kids can use their hands to make a “bed” and check on the direction of the letters b and d.

The best thing you can remember is that young readers and writers are trying to get a lot of new information under their control and lapses such as letter reversals are common.  Kids need our demonstration, our patience, and our permission to allow them the time and practice to get things right.


Comments on: "Letter reversals…what’s “normal”?" (1)

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