Elayne Reiss-Weimann and Rita Friedman created the concept of Letter People as teachers in Nanuet, New York. In 1964, first-grade teacher Reiss-Weimann formed the original idea for the Letter People. She 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 the overcrowded school. Weimann collaborated 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.
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