Many parents ask me about phonics. I hope the following information will be useful in helping parents to understand what this term actually refers to and the importance of learning the sounds for both native English speakers and learners of English as a second language.
This term simply describes the relationship between letters and sounds. By stringing these sounds together, we can form words.
A good phonetic knowledge is essential for a number of reasons:
First they should learn the sounds of the 26 letters in the English alphabet (it makes sense to know the alphabet before attempting this).
It is useful for young children to learn the uppercase letters as the names of the letters and the lower case letters as the sounds of the letters.
A is the name.
a is the sound.
Learning the sounds individually is useless if children do not know how to blend these sounds to read words. This is the area which I believe is the most important aspect of learning the sounds. Blending requires a child to be able to run the sounds together. This requires a lot of practice.
One of the best ways to do it is to invite your child to read words that they have not come across before, using the sounds they know. If children can still read them, it means they are able to blend. If they can’t read them, it means they are not blending but instead relying on their sight vocabulary. Children who learn to blend early have a much higher chance of becoming strong spellers.
Your child can probably only recognise the first two words but they are all English words. If they can read all of them, it means your child understands how to string words together.
A good knowledge of phonics together with sight-vocabulary form the basis for good reading skills. Both of these systems should be used together, not in isolation.
If you plan to enrol your child on courses, ensure that the teachers are native speakers with a correct knowledge of phonetic teaching.
For the sake of uniformity, many parents prefer their children to learn the British sounds first. This will avoid confusion.