What is Phonics?

Phonics is method of teaching reading. Students learn to match spoken sounds to written letters. While engaging in phonics lessons, children learn how to break down words into individual letter sounds. Phonics helps children learn to hear and identify sounds and then use this knowledge to read words. This translation of print to speech is called decoding. There are approximately 44 sounds in the English language. For example, the word “cat” has three sounds: /c/ /a/ /t/. When children learn to read using phonics, they are learning these sounds like a code. As children begin to learn more letter sounds, they are then able to use this code to read hundreds of words as they combine these letter sounds. 

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Why is phonics important?

Phonics instruction is essential in a child’s development of letter/sound awareness. In order to read unfamiliar words independently, children need to be able to decode, or sound out, unknown words. When a child is decoding while reading, they will be able to read words that they may have never seen or heard before! Without phonics instruction, children are essentially memorizing word shapes and word spellings which leads to a lot of confusion and frustration when a child can only memorize so many words. When children read without decoding, comprehension of the text is greatly affected as more mistakes are made when children are guessing while reading. 

Why Phonics?

When phonics is taught in a cohesive way, it is an effective method of teaching children how to read. Phonics instruction begins with the most simple sounds and gradually the instruction moves towards more complex sounds. Phonics instruction is most effective when taught in grades K-2, as it builds a strong foundation of reading for children. As children progress through the grade levels, they will build on their phonics skills from a place of genuine understanding. Children who are receiving phonics instruction read more confidently and accurately. Children are then able to build skills in fluency quickly as they are able to decode with ease. Building phonics knowledge is especially important for struggling readers as phonics is a tool that can help them to increase independence, build reading stamina and provide children with the tools that they need to support themselves as readers.

What are the benefits of teaching children to read using a phonics-based approach?

Phonics strengthens early literacy skills. As children learn all individual letter sounds, they are then able to combine these individual sounds to form words as they learn how to read. Children are also able to break apart each word by listening to the letter sounds that they are hearing. 

Phonics aids in developing speech and language skills. Teachers and caregivers model how their mouths and lips should work to make each sound. This can help children who struggle with speech and language to learn how to physically form each sound with their mouths. Consistent modeling and practice of the physical letter/sound formations allows children to slow down and look closely at the way each sound is formed with the mouth. 

Phonics can help to prepare children for grade school. Exposing children to the letter/sound relationship in a fun and playful way in pre-k can help set children up for success in grade school. Having knowledge of letters and the sounds that they make can ease the school transition for caregivers and children. 

What can you do at home to support your child when they are learning to read using a phonics-based approach? 

Read Children learn so much from listening to their teachers and caregivers read to them. Your child will pay attention to how you pronounce words, the tone you use while reading and the feeling of rhythm as you flow through a text. It is so important to express that reading is an enjoyable activity to engage in. The goal of phonics instruction is for your child to be able to read books. Enjoying the process while connecting with your child can only aid in their reading development. 

Play Children enjoy learning through methods of play. While you are playing with your child it is important to be intentional with the language that you choose. Describe what you see as you are playing with your child. Use a variety of vocabulary words such as action words, color words, number words and adjectives. Converse your way through play with your child to help develop their language skills!

Sing Music is such a powerful learning tool! Listening to and singing songs builds a child’s phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is a child’s ability to listen to and identify sounds and then manipulate them by blending sounds together to form words or breaking words down into sounds. One example of a phonemic awareness skill is rhyming. So many songs include rhymes, which allow children to make connections with words that include the same ending sounds. Listening and speaking skills are very important in your child’s development as a reader.