About Itchy’s Alphabet® Phonics learning tools

Itchy’s Alphabet® phonics program evolved through the thirty-four years Brenda worked with children who struggled to learn their letter sounds. These children had been taught the sounds and letter formations in the regular classrooms, using various programs, but had not achieved mastery and were referred for Learning Assistance support.

Armed with the knowledge that about 65% of individuals are visual learners, Brenda started drawing pictures, in the shape of the letters, to give children a visual cue to remember. Not only did the students show improved mastery of their sounds, but they were also able to retrieve the shape of the letter by remembering the picture cue – spelling and printing both improved. In “Just the Facts”, an information sheet published by The International Dyslexia Association, they state, “Sound-symbol association must be taught (and mastered) in two directions: visual to auditory and auditory to visual.” Itchy’s Alphabet® is a unique phonics learning product in providing this dual-modality learning process. The visual and auditory reinforce each other, enhancing the ability to master both!

Brenda also had the opportunity to try using these ideas in a colleague’s Grade one classroom. We saw positive results with the children – the greatest problem, however, was that our combined artistic talent failed to do justice to the pictures we were trying to draw! Brenda connected with an artist, who put my ideas down on paper, and someone with some computer graphics experience, and we were on our way to the products you see presented here. The program is named after Itchy, a colorful, commercially-made worm with fuzzy hair which Brenda purchased years ago to help her teach the short ‘i’ sound.

Enjoy using your Itchy’s Alphabet® Phonics Products
The Best Start to letter-sound learning!

About the creator of Itchy’s Alphabet®

Brenda Larson (B.Ed. ’71 University of British Columbia, M. Ed. ‘79, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA) has been teaching in the British Columbia public school system since 1972.

Her experience includes 1½ years as a Remedial Reading Teacher in the Vancouver School District, followed by 31 years as a full-time Learning Assistance Teacher in the Vancouver, Langley and Central Okanagan School Districts of B.C.

As a Learning Assistance Teacher, her role has been to assist students who struggle with their academic learning. The letter cues in Itchy’s Alphabet were developed as a result of her experience working with these students.

Info and Research


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.

Additional research on the effectiveness of picture mnemonics can be viewed at: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1985-09174-001

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

Another article abstract is available here:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888430903117492 

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.

Itchy’s Alphabet® Info Sheet

  • Not Just Another Alphabet– a systematic program to teach letter sounds and letter formations
  • 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
  • Designed by a Learning Assistant specifically for children who struggle
  • Picture cues are clear, colourful, attractive and uncluttered – the simplicity of the picture/letter connection makes it especially suitable for struggling learners
  • A multi-sensory approach – the majority of people are visual learners and the visual cues create a connection to the auditory task of learning sounds; some of the picture cues are actions to involve the kinesthetic, as do our Hands-On-Vowels; our Songs give auditory support
  • Current research indicates that systematic phonic instruction is necessary for successful reading (National Reading Panel findings)
  • Some of our print products are also available in script font
  • The order of presentation of letters (Logical Letter Formations) is based on the concept of building on prior knowledge – a basic premise of teaching
  • Emphasizes letter sounds (not names) and lower case letters (not uppercase) – children who struggle don’t need to learn 52 sounds/names and 52 symbols when 26 of each will suffice to meet the goal of beginning to read
  • 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
  • Blackline Masters VI and VII are probably the most effective programs for correcting common letter reversals that are available
  • Accuracy and Automaticity drills develop instant word recognition skills using a fun, one-minute timed drill format
  • Contact us at 1-877-368-7890 if you have any questions about Itchy’s Alphabet® or to discuss discounts for large volume buying for schools
  • Please see over for testimonials from just a few of the many educators using Itchy’s Alphabet® products

To enhance the learning of the letter cues we recommend

  • Bringing apples for ‘a’ day and cookies for ‘c’ day
  • Purchasing a small bat and ball set for ‘b’
  • Using the feather from a plume pen (for weddings) for ‘f’ – tie a bow with a piece of thin ribbon around the middle to show the cross line
  • Have someone handy with a saw cut out the house shape and paint it for ‘h’
  • Have the children perform the actions for the action letters – jump for ‘j’, kick for ‘k’, tiptoe for ‘t’, wave for ‘w’, kiss (the back of our hand) for ‘x’, yawn for ‘y’ and zigzag around the room for ‘z’
  • An old pole lamp from home can be brought in for ‘l’
  • Knitting supply stores have large, dull needles for ‘n’
  • Lakeland (US) or Wintergreen (CDN) educational suppliers have a pig puppet very similar to our picture, which can be purchased for ‘p’
  • Many novelty stores have rubber snakes for ‘s’, IKEA has a large green snake that is perfect
  • A vase can be brought in for ‘v’ – I was able to find a blue one and painted the flowers on the front to replicate our picture
  • Itchy’s Alphabet® Hands-On Vowels set provides a manipulative for each of the short vowel sounds
  • See our Teaching Guide for stories to introduce each letter cue and specific ideas for teaching each letter