About Itchy’s Alphabet®

    Phonics learning tools

    Itchy’s Alphabet® is a systematic program to teach letter sounds and letter formations, which was designed by a Learning Assistance Teacher specifically for children who struggle. Using unique pictures in the shape of each letter give children a cue to remember both the sound and the shape of the letter simultaneously, thus enhancing learning. 

    Picture cues are clear, colourful, attractive and uncluttered. Current research indicates that systematic phonics instruction is necessary for successful reading (National Reading Panel findings), and the simplicity of the picture/letter connection makes it especially suitable for struggling learners. 

    Our Teaching Guide features a children’s story to introduce each picture cue, follow-up activities for the story, an art activity, Phonological Awareness activities and words to read and spell. With our Hands-On Vowels, children who have difficulty hearing the subtle differences between the short vowel sounds can now ‘see’ the difference. 

    Itchy’s Alphabet® also has a multi-sensory approach to our learning tools: 

    • Visual learners will thrive from visual cues to create a connection to the auditory task of learning sounds 
    • Picture cues are actions to involve the kinesthetic learners 
    • Hands-On-Vowels excersices provide auditory support to those who learn best from listening 

    The Creation of Itchy’s Alphabet® 

    All children deserve to be able to read. This is the main pillar that the Itchy’s Alphabet® phonics program was founded on. Named after Itchy, a colorful worm with fuzzy hair, Brenda Larson, the original owner of the program, helped develop and improve the program for over 30 years to help children who were struggling to learn their letter sounds. Armed with the knowledge that about 65% of individuals are visual learners, Brenda created pictures, in the shape of letters, to give children a visual cue to remember. This research-backed innovation helped students master letter sounds and greatly improve both spelling and printing. The program was also designed to help those struggling with correct letter formations and supporting children that make letter reversals.  

    Now owned and operated by Shelina Rajani-Shankar, the Itchy’s Alphabet® program is near and dear to her mission of helping all children build their reading skills. As an educator of grades K-7 herself (and having taught special education courses as a sessional instructor at UBC) she’s witnessed firsthand how children can struggle with literacy, and the positive impact the Itchy’s Alphabet® program has made on their reading abilities.   

    Looking to the future, Shelina strives to both support teachers and families with training and resources. Through this support, students can be empowered to learn reading skills at an earlier age where this foundation can be set, or simply improve the skills of struggling readers. With this help, students can succeed in reading in higher grades and their adult lives and even create a love for reading! 


    • Itchy’s Alphabet has been researched and proven to be a highly effective program to introduce young children to letter sound skills. You can access the research article through the following link: http://www.tandfonline.com 

    Article Name: Teaching Letter-Sound Connections With Picture Mnemonics: Itchy’s Alphabet and Early Decoding 
    Authors: Kim E. DiLorenzo, Carlotta A. Rody, Jessica L. Bucholz, Michael P. Brady 
    Publication: Preventing School Failure Vol 55, Issue 1, 2011 pg. 28 – 34. 

    Article Name: Pictorial mnemonics for phonics 
    Authors: Linnea C. Ehri, Nancy D. Deffner, Lee S. Wilce 
    Publication: Journal of Educational Psychology Vol 76 (5) Oct 1984 pg 880-893 

    Article Name: Embedded Picture Mnemonics to Learn Letters 
    Authors: Adina Shmidman and Linnea Ehri 
    Publication: Scientific Studies of Reading, Vol 14, 2010     Issue 2, pg. 159-182