Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Document Type



The ability of 20-24 month-old toddlers to recognize graphemes and phonemes was investigated by reading a Phonic Faces (PF) alphabet picture book. Phonic Faces iconically picture a letter in the mouth of a character producing the sound (the curve of the P looks like the top lip popping the /p/ sound). The book was composed of nine letters and was read individually to experimental subjects three times weekly for six weeks. The control group received no treatment, but engaged in individual play activities for comparable time. Following six-weeks the groups alternated so the former control group now received the alphabet book reading treatment and vice versa. Parents also completed a Home Literacy Questionnaire. Subjects were assessed using seven experimenter-designed measures. Three of the measures assessed letter awareness and discrimination skills and four comparable measures assessed phonemic knowledge as well as phoneme production in response to a letter. The tasks examined the ability to point to a letter or phoneme in the context of a PF card, to discriminate between three letters or phonemes represented by PF cards, to discriminate between two letters and one number, and to produce the correct phoneme when shown the letter within a PF card. Analyses across pre- and post-assessments showed that children were able to identify letters and phonemes following repeated exposure within the context of alphabet book reading and the picture support provided by the PF. Differences between the two groups were significant for both phases of the study, supporting the hypotheses that toddlers can learn letters and phonemes mediated through the context of alphabet book reading using the iconic faces. Particular gains were made in the areas of letter identification, letter discrimination with PF, and sound production. Overall gains were maintained after a six-week period without intervention. Additionally, there was a direct correlation between overall development of letter and phoneme awareness and direct literacy experiences at home as determined by the Home Literacy Questionnaire. These results call into question the current view that alphabet knowledge is a secondary language skill that is learned through explicit instruction rather than a language acquisition process.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Janet Norris