The other day I was working with a young boy who was spelling "chimpanzee." Without any help, he spelled the word perfectly...except the ending: "chimpanz." When I questioned the ending, he said, 'zee' and pointed to the letter 'z.'
This boy's strategy of spelling the sound based on the letter works better in languages where each letter represents one consistent sound, (e.g. Spanish). But since our English alphabet contains 26 letters and 44 sounds, many letters must do double duty.
All of the vowels have two or three sounds, like 'u;' it has a short sound and two long ones. We can hear these in the words, "up," "glue," and "you." Yes, one of u's long sounds 'yoo' is distinct from his other long sound 'oo'. Compare "cute" with "tube." (For more see Letters and Personalities: Who's Understanding U?)
The Harbor Friends teach these important details. When your child reads about Optimistic O, they'll learn about his two sounds. Here's an excerpt:
Optimistic O can say two sounds, 'o' [short sound], just like the sound we hear in "on" and "off." He also says the name of his letter, 'o' [long sound]. We can hear this sound in the words, "open" and "over."
Since children can hear these sounds easily at the beginning of words and are using these words in conversations, they will confidently associate two or three sounds with the same letter.