Updated: Mar 8
Has phonics just entered your world for the first time?
Many of you may have a child in reception and you may have simple books coming home as your child builds up their bank of phonic sounds ( phonemes) and starts to learn to read. Or you may be in the pre-school phase and notice
that your child is interested in words and print in general and want to start with some basic phonics.
Why is phonics so important?
An awareness of letter sounds is the foundation upon which all other literacy skills can be built.
This awareness is about:
Linking a letter to a sound
Hearing the letter sound at the beginning of a word (initial letter sound).
Hearing the letter sound at the end of the word (final letter sound).
Hearing any sound within a word ( medial sounds)
Hearing similarities and patterns in words, such as the use of onset and rime. ( Cat – c=onset at=rime ) – (yes, rime is spelt in this way when referring to this element of phonics!)
Linking letters and sounds works both ways. Children first learn what we call grapheme to phoneme correspondence ( this means they see a letter and say a sound - decoding/reading) they also develop the ability to hear a sound and link it to a letter ( phoneme to grapheme correspondence) this helps with early writing or word building.
Schools aim to teach children many of their sounds before Christmas as phonics is best taught daily. Supporting at home can be a bit tricky but the key is to refer to letter sounds rather than names.
It's really important that sounds are pronounced correctly. (No ‘uh’ after the sound). Once children link the letters and sounds, they can decode words and begin to read. They will start with short three-letter words that contain a consonant, a vowel and then another consonant (CVC words)
How do children begin to read in addition to phonics?
Early reading occurs in many forms – all equally important.
Acting out stories
Seeing print in their environment
It is important for children to handle books regularly to know the front from the back and to recognise the story's beginning and end. At this point, children should begin to understand that print is read from left to right.
You can support reading at home by thinking about the following:
Discuss the pictures, make sense of pictures in relation to the text, tell stories from just the pictures, use a story voice, pick out story language ( once upon a time….) In addition to these skills, children will be learning to identify patterned or repeated language in text and they will be encouraged to pick out keywords in the text. (During their reception year children will also learn 42 keywords). Children will be attempting to read simple sentences that are based on repetition: I went to the park…. I went to the zoo… I went to the shop, etc.
Tips for success...
Read little and often and always keep sessions relaxed and fun - if frustrations kick in, move on to something else. It's very important to attach positive feelings to reading, it's a tricky task and the more confident the learner is the quicker things will fall into place.
Never make reading a chore and avoid using it as a punishment - switching children off to reading at a young age can create real issues further down the line. Reading should be seen as a privilege and a wonderful adventure!
English is a very complex language and mastering it takes time and patience. Aim to make any support at home fun and engaging. As mentioned before, sessions should be short and positive. Slowly try to build up a wave of success by keeping tasks simple and short, this will be the best way to create a love of reading as well as more rapid success.
Take a look at our learning cards for an excellent introduction to phonics. Our cards also contain story starters to develop language skills, rhymes to help remember new learning and words lists that can be used in various different ways within fun learning activities.