Summary -> The Letter People -

Elayne Reiss-Weimann and Rita Friedman originally created the concept of Letter People as teachers in Nanuet, New York. In 1964, the idea for the Letter People came to first-grade teacher Elayne Reiss-Weimann, who had struggled daily to draw attention of her 24 students (who were typical first graders, eager and rambunctious) in a distraction-fond hallway classroom at an overcrowded school based in Nanuet, New York. Weimann managed to collaborate with an early childhood coordinator, Rita Friedman, to create an educational program that revolved around 26 anthropomorphic characters, each representing a letter of the alphabet, to teach beginning readers how to "decode" or "sound out" the consonants and vowels that form words. They embodied the basic rules of phonics into stories about these make-believe characters called Letter People. Each letter of the alphabet had a distinct characteristic to help children learn not only the letter but the sound the letter represents in the written word. For example, Mr. M has a Munching Mouth, Mr. N has a Noisy Nose, or Mr. T has Tall Teeth. The characters were painted on large, two-dimensional portrait cards. Each character was given an engaging personality to help the teacher bring her or him alive in the classroom, and each character had a song (or a poem at the time) to help children recall the distinguishing feature and sound. With the help of the Letter People, children remained on-task, learned more quickly and retained what they learned. From the beginning, the children viewed the Letter People as real people and not just letters of the alphabet, phonics devices, or toys. On one occasion, when the Letter People had to be shipped to another school, the children insisted that holes be placed in the boxes so that the Letter People could breathe as they traveled.