If your child is learning to read, chances are you will hear a lot about phonics. Here’s everything you need to know about phonics, how phonics helps your little one develop reading and language skills and what you can do to help them become a better reader.
What is phonics?
Phonics is simply knowing that sounds and letters have a relationship. It is the link between what we say and what we read and write. A child who has mastered phonics can connect the sounds he knows with letters and then put them together to make words, which then form sentences, paragraphs and so on.
Why learn phonics?
Phonics gives early readers the strategies to sound out words. For example, your child will learn that the letter D has the sound of ‘d’ as in ‘doll’ and that the vowel combination of “ae” creates a different sound to the “ai”. In short, phonics teaches your little one how to blend letter sounds together to make words which helps with her language, reading and spelling skills.
Why is phonics important?
Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, but in order for your child to understand what he reads, he must be able to do it quickly and automatically, without stumbling over words. Phonics facilitates that process by giving your child the sound clues to decipher words. With lots of practice sounding out words along with other reading skills such as phonemic awareness , his reading will become more fluent.
When is phonics usually taught?
Your child will start learning phonics in kindergarten. Children usually learn the sounds of the consonant letters (all letters except the vowels a, e, i, o, and u) first. Then in first and second grade, your little one will learn how to make sounds when letters are combined and form word parts – such as as "ing" and "ed". Kids continue to practice the phonics skills they have learned to make spelling and reading smooth and automatic.
How you can help your child learn phonics
You can help your little reader master phonics by:
Listening to your child read daily
Snuggle up and read a book together on a daily basis. Let your child read to you and if she stumbles over a word, encourage her to sound it out. If your child gets discouraged, take turns in reading paragraphs to turn it into a team sport.
It's okay if your child wants to read a favourite book from earlier years. Reading easy books helps kids develop fluency and the familiarity with the words on the page helps build confidence in their reading ability.
Make reading exciting
Your child is much more likely to want to do reading at home if you have exciting, interesting books on offer. As well as choosing thrilling books on topics that your child is actually interested in, encourage your child to read with gusto, making up voices for different characters to bring the story to life.
Team up with the teacher
Chat to your little one’s teacher about how you can help your child learn phonics and reading at home. If you have concerns that your child is falling behind, make sure the teacher knows. Struggling readers should be given extra-intensive instruction, either in the classroom, or in small groups with a school reading specialist.
Help your child with comprehension by asking questions while he’s reading to you like, “what do you think happens next?”
Find more about kids speech and language development:
- Speech and language development for pre-kinder children
- Speech and language development for 5-6 year olds
- Speech and language development for 7-8 year olds
- Speech and language development for 9-10 year olds
- Speech and language development for 11-12 year olds
- What is phonetics
- What is phonics
- What is phonemics
- How tongue twisters aid speech and language
- The importance of nursery rhymes
- Simple songs to boost speech and language
- Learning a second language
- All about syllables
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This article was written by Lana Hallowes for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading resource for school-aged kids. Sources include Scholastic and www.PBS.org.