B and D Reversals: A Developmental Approach {Easy Trick Included}

B and D reversals are a common issue among younger children. There are many “tricks” teachers and parents try, like holding your fingers up to form the b and d or that the b has a belly and the d doesn’t. But in my experience, these tricks don’t always “do the trick” because kids still have a hard time visualizing which way the b and d face.

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B and D Confusion from a Developmental Approach

Older, struggling readers/writers can also confuse b and d. Just recently, I had an interesting discussion with a homeschooling mom and it reminded me of the importance of thinking about these confusions from a developmental standpoint. Our discussion went something like:

“I have a 3rd grader and she still reverses her b‘s and d‘s.  My friend has a daughter in the 3rd grade who doesn’t do this and she told me that my child  shouldn’t be doing this anymore either.  Should I be concerned?”  This was a question a mom recently asked me.  And I thought it was a good one at that!

I probed further to find out that her child was reading and writing on a 1st grade level.  Developmentally speaking, this student was a 1st grader, despite what literal “grade” she was actually in.

I responded something like, “Your daughter is demonstrating the spelling behavior of a 1st grader because that’s the developmental stage she’s in.  Students in this stage still do reverse their letters on occasion, so for her developmental stage, she is ‘normal’.”  Does that mean the mom should not be concerned?  No. But that’s a post for another day.  Today, I just want to drive home the point that, we need to remember to look at the whole child as we observe and assess.  Instead of expecting literacy behaviors based solely off of a student’s grade level,  we need to make sure we take into account what developmental stage she is in.


Easy and Discrete Trick for B and D Reversals

As for the b and d reversals, it can be a source of embarrassment for kids who are the older grades, yet in a younger/lower developmental stage. Here’s an easy-peasy trick that I’ve used with students I’ve tutored. With a pencil, lightly write a capital B at the top of your page. The lower case b will fit inside of it. When you’re done with your writing, erase your B and no one will ever know that you needed it. :)

Easy Trick for B and D Reversals - FREE Printable - This Reading Mama

And just in case you’d like one to put up for your child who’s writing at home or for your students at school, I’m including a FREE printable poster pack! You can download it HERE.



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  1. I have never used your idea for b! I love it! I always used the word bed to teach my students, I would show them how the word can be turned into a real bed…. but now I can show both!
    Love the tip!

    • Yes, I used the word bed when I taught K-1 and had it posted in my classroom for kids to refer to. There’s also another one where the kids make the b and d with their hands and that’s supposed to help, too. But the lower case b within the capital B is more discrete and with older kids, that’s important. One tutee in particular had complained that her classmates were making fun of her for using her hands to make the b and d; which absolutely broke my heart!

  2. I didn’t think to use the capital B trick either. Thanks for sharing this! If a child writes in manuscript or D’Nealian style writing it helps prevent reversals in writing. I can usually get a reader to write the letter they are trying to read in the air to decide if it’s a b or d.

    Too bad kids have to make fun of each other. Your trick is great.

    Love your blog!

  3. Thank you! Just saw a link from Pinterest to this. I am going to try this TOMORROW with my new 2nd graders, who are reading at a K/1st grade level. They are both delayed in areas due to their early beginnings (adopted internationally at 3 and 5). We are starting a tutorial and I’ve worried about the b/d mix-up. This is a great suggestion for discreetness! Love it! Going to pin this to my reading board as well!

    • Oh, I’m so glad you’re going to try it. The older students I taught loved it and it seemed to really help if they used it consistently. Thanks for taking time to stop by and pin.

  4. Still struggling with this little guy I am helping- tried all of the above even the b on left hand d on right hand – make an okay sign and pull the three fingers together on left you have the b on right you have the d. This poor little one, grade 3 is still confused. Any other ideas???????

  5. Thank you so much. I am an EC teacher and my kids all struggle with this. I have tried different ideas but this is such a great way to help them.

  6. I always use this: when you look at the letter b, the first thing you see is a line. When you say the letter b, your mouth makes also a line.
    But, I’m also going to use your trick, every child learns different.

  7. I have a hand trick that has worked really well with my fourth graders who have a hard time with this persistent reversal. Hold up your left hand. Point your index finger up and connect your middle finger and thumb to make the letter b. Next to that, make the letter d in a similar fashion with your right hand. Say “bed” , physically emphasizing the “b” and “d” as you pronounce them. The upright pointer fingers make the headboard and footboard of the bed from a side view. Imagine someone sleeping on the mattress, formed by the round parts of the letters. Hope this helps, too!

    • Those are great tricks, too. For my older, struggling readers those weren’t discrete enough. One told me outright, “The people in my class make fun of me when I hold my hands up to make the b and d.” It broke my heart.

  8. I have recently started homeschooling and the curriculum that I am using had a great way to read or write the “b” and “d”. The “b” is a bat(the long straight line first) and a ball (followed by the round part). You have to have the bat first to hit the ball. The “d” is a doorknob (you have to turn the doorknob first to open) and a door. My daughter loves using this code to decipher what she needs to know to decipher a word!


  1. […] Letter Reversal Solution (for younger kids); I also posted a more discrete idea for older kids who might feel a little embarrassed to do this in the classroom with peers […]

  2. […] learn, his own development has to be taken into consideration. It reminds me of a 3rd grader I knew confused her b’s and d’s when she wrote. The mom had been told by a well-meaning friend that her daughter should not be […]

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