All civilizations have had forms of writing and reading. People first used pictures as words. The Babylonians and ancient Egyptians passed beyond this stage and used hieroglyphics, which contained symbols along with pictures.
In 1200 B.C., the Phoenicians, with their alphabet, were the first people to read sounds from letter symbols rather than from pictures. All the letters were capitals, and no spaces were left between words in sentences. Because the letters were printed by hand, they sometimes changed shape and were difficult to read.
Greek and Roman children learned to read by sounding out each letter in their words. They learned letters in alphabetical order, backwards and forwards, and used songs to learn to spell.