I've heard in Chabad and elsewhere that when teaching children to read Hebrew, one must call the letters and vowels only by their full traditional name. This is in my opinion very distracting for a child. In other words instead of saying B O BO, one goes through the whole alphabet saying komets alef O, komets beis BO, komets gimmel GO, etc.

  1. Does anyone know any source for this?
  2. Is adhering to this more important than actually teaching the child to read? That is, if the child has difficulty with this method and may not learn to read, is it acceptable to switch to another?
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    See: collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=22339 – Ariel Apr 25 '13 at 9:29
  • Moderator's note: I've deleted a whole bunch of comments that applied only to earlier versions of the question. – msh210 Apr 28 '13 at 8:10
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    Note there aren't uniformly accepted names for all the letters and vowels. The Rambam for instance regularly writes about the letters Dal and Tzad, not Dalet and Tzadi as they are referred to in Modern Hebrew. Similarly some say Kometz or Tzeireh or Shurek, instead of Komatz, Tzeirei and Shuruk. – Double AA Nov 19 '17 at 12:43
  • @DoubleAA - Or Rashi calling tzeirei "potach koton" and segol "komatz koton". – ezra Nov 19 '17 at 22:23
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    @ezra The way you remember is kamatz and tzere are the long vowels, and patach and segol are short vowels. – Double AA Nov 19 '17 at 23:23

I read the following in the introduction to the Eizer L'Seifer Movo Likrio, which is the aid to the original book Sefer Movo Likrio, which is used in Lubavitch cheiderim to teach small children the alef-beis.

...The letters themselves have within them holiness (which is why [our Sages] have strongly warned us about the necessity of studying the letters Alef-Beis, etc. and studying the accents, such as Komatz Alef and Patoch Alef etc., for in this study itself lies holiness and a Divine power that arouses the inner powers of the soul, as we see openly that all those who study according to this method have inner Yiras Shomayim [awe of Heaven], and are likely to be aroused towards every Divine concern and subject...Because of the great and tremendous advantage of this - teaching the letters only according to this method [I.e the traditional method of teaching the sound of a letter-vowel combination by first repeating the vowel name, then the letter name, then the sound itself, as in "Komatz Alef - Aw."] - it is a Mitzva and obligation for every Jew to put his soul and heart to this aim, teaching his child and grandchild only according to this method... (Sefer Hamaamarim 5687, p.200)

The above, although a quotation from the introduction to the Eizer L'Seifer Movo Likrio as stated before, is taken from the writings of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, who clearly wanted the alef-beis to be always taught the way you describe, by first saying the vowel, then the letter, and then the sound.

I would have quoted from the actual Sefer Hamaamarim, but I do not own a set myself and I could not find a version online in which to quote from. If anyone could find the actual quote, then please edit it in, by all means!


In my opinion, based on many years of teaching kria to both special needs children and mainstream students, teaching the name of the letter allows for much better retention. Even within cultures, we find that names that are given to objects allow for better expression and understanding. If you try teaching with just the sounds of the letters, thinking that this will be a short-cut for students, you'll find that this does not work as effective as taking the long-short way. You'll also find studies that will show the importance of names of things as part of the learning process.

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