Want to teach your child to read as soon as possible, but don’t know where to start?
Reading plays such an integral part in learning throughout life that it’s understandable, more and more parents want to start teaching their kids, but need a proven system to do so. In this article, we’ll give you the 3 best ways to teach your child to read with phonics.
For older readers, it’s such an intuitive thing that most likely you’re not even aware of all the things your brain is doing as you read these words.
As you read this, you may even find yourself pronouncing the syllables in the words, one by one.
All of this is possible because you’ve got a good grasp of phonics.
What is Phonics?Simply put, phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds.
Every letter and combination of letters of the alphabet has a corresponding sound, and because you know what they are, you’re able to recognize these words in your brain when you read.
You’d be able to recognize them if they were spoken to you as well.
You’d be able to write them down, because when you hear them, you’re already well-versed in decoding the sounds that you hear into their individual letters (or graphemes, to use the technical term).
Now – how do you go about building this awareness of letters and their sounds in your kids?
And why should you?
There is plenty of science-backed and results-backed evidence to show that phonics gives kids a significant advantage to become faster and better readers.
Kids are already learning even before they start their alphabets.
They listen to words they hear around them and repeat them, they associate certain words with certain things, they even begin to read familiar letters and words on signs (i.e. McDonald’s).
Phonics is all about helping them connect the sounds that they’ve already encountered to their corresponding letters and combination of letters.
Doing so from an early age makes reading and phonological awareness – the ability to distinguish the different sounds making up a word and its corresponding letters – instinctive and natural.
When interviewed by Pat Wyman, reading specialist and CEO of HowtoLearn.com, noted phonics expert, JoAnne Nelson of Superbooks.net had this to say. “Phonics is a more sequential, strategy-based approach to reading.”
“JoAnne Nelson has validated that teaching reading using phonics is the most effective way of teaching kids to read for over 40 years and we are proud to have her as the phonics expert on our site,” says Wyman.
Children who have a sound foundation in phonics have better reading comprehension and speed compared to kids who don’t.
The latter may actually suffer and risk falling behind without this foundation.
Think about it this way.
If you didn’t learn how to sound out the words you are reading, how would it affect your ability to read and understand what you’re reading?
Can you imagine the frustration and confusion of guessing what all these letters on a page might mean?
And how difficult will learning become progressively, as reading material gets more challenging?
To avoid that, teaching your kids phonics early on ensures they have mastered what they need to grow as readers and learners.
So where should you begin?
3 Best Ways to Teach Your Child to Read with Phonics
1. Phonemes and Phonological Awareness
As JoAnne Nelson says, “The place to begin is with letter and sound recognition, learning the alphabet.”
But this isn’t as simple as learning the sequence of the graphemes in order and being able to recite them from memory.
The best ways to teach your child to read with phonics involves making sure kids make sense of the letters they’re reciting.
They need to be able to decode the sounds and associate them to something specific.
As you read earlier, your kids already have a healthy knowledge of sounds and their combinations and what they mean.
They know, for example, what a “cup” is, what the color “red” looks like, and tell the difference between a “cat” and a “tiger.”
Building good phonological awareness involves linking what your kids already know to their ability to recognize phonemes – the smallest units of sound which make up a word.
All the letters of the alphabet are phonemes, along with combinations that make specific and unique sounds, like “ch,” “sh,” “ure,” and so on.
Overall, there are 44 phonemes!
But don’t be scared of the number – take it step by step, starting with the alphabet.
As you point out these letters and their sounds to your child, help them visualize words they already know, and learn new words, that begin with these sounds.
A is for “add”, “apple,” “ant,”… ask them to think of what other words they know that sound like they start with the short sound of the letter “A.” /a/ (antler, ask, at, after *note—Aa has many sounds.)
This helps them strengthen their association between letters and sounds, and improves their phonological awareness.
As they gradually move on to blending these sounds together – starting with phoneme combinations like “cat,” “car”, “catch” – encourage them to try differentiating the different phonemes making up the word.
Over time and with the right practice, they should be able to recognize similar and different beginning, medial and ending sounds.
They would also over time become adept at reading new words by distinguishing the phonemes or figuring out how they’re spelled by separating the sounds.
2. Use Images
For people of any age, visualizing information helps boost recall and learning. Visual memory is more than 300 times faster than auditory memory and using images, really helps make a difference in recall.
In the images above, you can use others to show both the short and long vowel sounds – so for example, when you see the “U” for unicorn, this is the long sound of the vowel, but you also want to show the “u” with an umbrella to let kids know the short sound of the same vowel.
For your kids, visualizing will definitely be easier than committing all the different shapes of the letters of the alphabet to memory.
Help them form mental pictures to associate with the letters.
Introduce upper and lower case letters of the alphabet together using pictures of objects that begin with that letter, i.e., Bb, ball; Dd, duck; Hh, hat and again, make sure to use both short and long sounds of the vowels, i.e. ape, or apple for example.
Encourage them to come up with these visual associations themselves, too!
As your child moves on from the alphabet to simple words, prompt them with images to help boost their memory of the sound, and then encourage them to break down the phonemes that make up the word.
Reading together is another excellent way of building visualization.
At HowtoLearn.com we recommend the SuperBooks.net Phonics Readers, which are the best option to have your child reading the soonest.
Seeing and hearing SuperBooks stories in action can help your child visualize more intuitively as they read.
With simple, engaging stories, decodable text, and colorful illustrations, SuperBooks are written at varying reading difficulty levels and are paced for success
The better children get at phonological awareness, the easier they’ll find it to read the books to you – which also will motivate them to keep learning!
Rhyming is one of the most fun and effective ways to teach phonics to young kids.
If they know, for example, that blending the phonemes /c/a/t/ gives them the word “cat,” then you can ask them what the phonemes /b/a/t/ and /r/a/t/ spell, and so on.
Make lists of word endings so children can read and spell new words.
Rhyming provides opportunities for kids to match similar sounds to their written and read counterparts.
This helps them naturally and intuitively build their vocabulary.
This is especially the case when they encounter new words they haven’t seen before, but are spelled similarly to words they know.
For example, if they encounter the word “endure” – they can read the first syllable, “end” and guess that the second syllable will sound like other “ure” words like “pure” and “sure.”
In this way they don’t only have to rely on their existing word bank, but can actively and intuitively read and learn new words too!
Phonics plays an integral role in growing into a fast and fluent reader.
And being aware of how best to familiarize your kids with phonics goes a long way in putting them on the fast track to mastering reading!
Are you going to try out the phonics approach to learning to read? Are there any questions you have about teaching your kids phonics?
Sound off below!
JoAnne Nelson is the author of award-winning SuperBooks and a foremost expert in using phonics to help kids read in under two weeks.
She has written more than 150 phonics based books for early readers (grades K-2) that both teachers and parents love because the lesson plans are done for you and kids successfully read very quickly!
Visit SuperBooks.net to view SuperBooks Kits and Story Packs for use at home or in classroom.
SuperBooks are the original phonics-based “little books” program that has been successfully teaching children to read for over 40 years!