What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:
•recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
•identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
•blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way - starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5–7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently and to read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning to read difficult, for example those who have dyslexia.
If you would like to find out more about phonics, visit www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/pedagogy/phonics or search for ‘phonics’ on the Department for Education website at www.education.gov.uk.
Helping your child with phonics
Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. Parents play a very important part in helping with this.
Some simple steps to help your child learn to read through phonics:
● Teaching how sounds match with letters is likely to start with individual letters such as ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then will move on to two-letter sounds such as ‘ee’, ‘ch’ and ‘ck’.
● With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help him or her to follow the story.
● Try to make time to read with your child every day. Grandparents and older brothers or sisters can help, too. Encourage your child to blend the sounds all the way through a word.
● Word games like ‘I-spy’ can also be an enjoyable way of teaching children about sounds and letters. You can also encourage your child to read words from your shopping list or road signs to practise phonics.
•Use your child’s reading record to look at what he/she has been reading and make comments yourself on how well they have done.
•ENJOY READING TOGETHER! Reading for pleasure is the most important thing. Let your child enjoy reading so that it doesn’t become a chore.