Why is it important to teach kids to read quickly?
For starters, based on findings by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – also known as the nation’s report card – 63% of fourth graders read below grade level.
Students who don’t read successfully, and early, contribute to around 8,000 high-school dropouts every year.
Oftentimes, these poor test scores can be traced back to foundational skills (or lack thereof) in reading, particularly in phonics.
Phonics refers to connecting a letter of the alphabet or unit of letters to its corresponding sounds.
If I asked you to read out the alphabet, how would you do that if you didn’t know what each of the symbols (or graphemes) sounded like?
And if I asked you to read a list of words, how would you do that without knowing what each letter and syllable sounds like?
As you can see, phonics is at the very core of the reading skills you are using, effortlessly, in reading this article at this very moment.
But why is phonics the best approach to reading?
In this article, I’m going to break down for you 3 reasons phonics teaches kids to read quickly.
3 Reasons Phonics Teaches Kids to Read Quickly
1. Phonics Build Skills from the Ground Up
The first of the 3 reasons phonics teaches kids to read quickly is the fact that it builds up reading skill from the ground up.
Young children begin with creating a sound symbol relationship.
When they look at a word they don’t recognize, they are also encouraged to look at accompanying illustrations to help determine both the sound and the meaning of the word.
With the 44 phonemes of the English language, they then learn how to blend these sounds together to form words.
With additional instruction, they learn how the phoneme “ch” blended with the phoneme “air” spells chair.
By breaking the word into the phonemes, sounding them out, and blending those sounds together, children can decode written words into something meaningful which they can say out loud.
This builds their confidence to continue wanting to read more.
Children can then decode similar rhyming words faster, e.g. “hair”, “stair”, “fair”, “pair,”.
Having built up this phonological awareness – the ability to distinguish sounds and their corresponding letters and combinations of letters – kids are better able to decode words they’ve never read before.
This speeds up reading considerably, compared to learning lists and lists of vocabulary and guesswork.
After all, without phonics, what would your child do if they get stuck on a word they’ve never learned before?
2. Phonics Builds an Existing Word Bank
Another of the 3 reasons phonics teaches kids to read quickly is that it builds on your child’s existing knowledge bank.
Your child learns through listening long before they’re able to speak.
They already have specific associations to specific sounds and what they mean or relate to.
They can identify items around the home, like their bed or books. They can identify members of their family, like “Mommy” and “Daddy”.
They can tell you the colors of their favorite outfit, and the fact that the thing in the driveway is called a “car”, parked under a “tree.”
So, kids already have a store of phonemes, sounds and words inside of their brains.
Connecting these sounds to letters and letter combinations on the page speeds up reading and improves comprehension, because they can link something they are learning to something they already know.
Imagine you are learning a foreign language, and one of the words you’re learning is “cat.”
“Cat”, in Spanish, is “Gato/Gata”.
You might have more trouble remembering this spelling (though there are strategies to remembering them) because you didn’t grow up calling cats “el gato” or “la gata”.
Those words are not inherently familiar or meaningful to you.
They only make sense when connected to the word “cat” in your head.
When your child sees the phonemes c/a/t, and blends them together, she already has the word “cat” in her word bank, to add meaning and build an associate with the letters and the associated sounds.
By retrieving that sound and associating it with the words on the page, she knows that c/a/t spells “cat”.
Then you can ask her to think of other words that sound similar.
As she continues building her word bank, she can begin to decode words like “caterpillar” by breaking them down into smaller units of sound that she knows and recognizes, and blending them together –
E.g. “cat” and “pill” and “ar.”
Similarly you can ask her to think up of words that sound like “cat” that she already knows.
“Bat,” “mat,” “that,” “hat” etc. – are all words that she likely already has in her word bank.
Now, she can link these sounds to the phonemes and their combinations, making learning more intuitive through these associations than simply memorizing a bunch of vocabulary.
An estimated 84% of words are considered regular words – i.e. they follow the rules of phonics, and you can segment the phonemes and blend them together to sound them out.
The remainder – the irregular words which don’t follow phonics rules, like “the”, “be”, “do”, etc. might seem trickier to decode.
The key is to turn these words, which often tend to be high frequency words (words which show up most often in written text) into sight words (words you can recognize on sight).
And the best way to do this is while reading in-text. Using phonics is one of the benefits of helping kids speed up their ability to read.
High frequency words, like “the”, “and,” “a” etc., might be difficult to explain on their own, but in the context of a reader, like any of the SuperBooks kits for sequential phonics readers, they make more sense.
They occur alongside other words your child can decode using regular phonics rules.
The more they read, and the more they encounter high frequency irregular words in different stories and texts, the more strongly they remember these words.
Soon enough, they will become sight words which your child can recognize and read effortlessly, speeding up their reading and improving reading comprehension!
These are the 3 reasons phonics teaches kids to read quickly.
Resources like SuperBook’s reading kits, which are designed for different reading levels and teach phonics and focus keywords through interesting colorful stories, are a great option to guide you.
Did you have any questions or comments? Drop them 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 inspiring books for sequential phonics readers 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!