Why phonics is essential for children learning to read

Education game for children learning consonant vowel consonant word

Phonics for Kids

Phonics is the foundation for reading. It’s the first step of learning to read. Learning which letters make which sounds is a crucial first step towards reading fluently. Phonics teaches us how to decode words. By definition, this is the study of how spoken language is represented through the use of letters and letter groups.

Why every young child needs a foundation of phonics

It’s essential that children develop the ability to decode unfamiliar written words with letters or letter combinations. For children who are learning to read this allows them to understand what they are reading and to begin to spot patterns in words.
This knowledge will also be useful when they are writing in English as having a base understanding of phonics is essential for spelling words correctly. It is because phonics is the way we represent sounds with letters. When spelling words, it’s an essential building block of reading and writing.
Phonics is not just about decoding. It also helps us to understand letter sounds and how they relate to each other. Having a solid foundation in their knowledge of sound-letter relationships is the most effective way to help children learn to read.
Phonics gives us the tools we need to become fluent readers but it’s not enough on its own. Learning needs to be supported by other skills such as vocabulary development, comprehension and reading fluency.

What is phonics?

Phonics is a system for learning the sounds of letters and how they represent different sounds in words.
Phonics involves breaking down words into their component parts (or sounds) and teaching children how those sounds are represented in written form through letter combinations. For example, the word ‘cat’ can be broken down into its three constituent parts: /k/, /æ/ and /t/. Each sound is represented by a different letter (c, a and t).
This is an example of a CVC (Consonant Vowel Consonant) word that is a good place for kids to start when learning their first words. Following the learning of CVC words, kids often progress to learning CVVC words (Consonant Vowel Vowel Consonant).
English can be a tricky language to learn. Children usually begin with learning short vowel sounds. After this they learn long vowel sounds and about letter combinations too.
An example of a letter combination would be the sound that “s” and “h” make when put together as “sh”. When these letters are put together they form an entirely new sound. That’s why it’s so important that children learn these letter combinations as soon as possible. They’re essential building blocks for later reading success!
Phonics teaches children how to break down words into their component parts, so they can work out what the vocabulary is and how to pronounce it. It helps them to understand the relationship between letters and sounds, which is particularly important when reading unfamiliar words or working with new vocabulary. When a child looks at a particular letter they need to be able to turn this visual symbol into a letter sound.

Why is phonics so useful for young readers?

Children learn to read by using the sounds they hear and then blending those sounds together to make new words. Phonics works best when it’s introduced early.
Having a sound understanding of phonics is vital for young students. If they are able to recognise the letter and know what sound it makes, it will help to grow their reading skills. And as they improve with their reading it will help them to do well in class which in turn will boost their confidence. We know that in education it is so valuable for a child to feel confident with their learning.
For example, if a child needs to read aloud to their teacher or peers it is really helpful if they feel confident in their knowledge of phonics.

Which system or resource is the best for learning phonics?

There are a plethora of resources available for parents and teachers. It may feel daunting to pick the “right” resource. However, the most important thing to consider when choosing a phonics program is simply by thinking about what would work best for your child. Think about their age and interests and the way you think they will learn best.
There are a variety of ways to teach phonics. Different methods incorporate a systematic approach using books, games, flashcards and songs. These resources provide lots of practice opportunities for your child to develop their knowledge of sounds and letter-sound relationships.
When deciding on a program or phonics resource for your child, think about what would be appealing and fun for them. For example, if you have young children, a program like Jolly Phonics might be a good choice as it uses music, singing and actions to teach the letter sounds.  
Perhaps you might also consider Letterland. This resource moves from Pre-Kindergarten grades through to Grade Three. It uses clever pictures to help children remember the sounds for letter combinations.
The most important thing to think about when choosing a program is to consider what is best for your child and what they will enjoy.  
There are many different ways you can use these resources in your home. You can practice them as part of a play-based learning approach, where you’ll talk about the sounds you see in each word as you play with toys or do activities together.
You can also use them as part of a more structured literacy lesson with your child, where you sit down together with a book and go through each word together looking for patterns in its spelling. For example, you might work with your child to identify how many vowels or consonants there are in each word.
Over time, you will find that your child will no longer need to decode each letter one by one. Instead they will begin to read words by sight and their fluency will improve overtime. By giving your child a solid foundation in phonics you will set them on the right path to become competent and confident readers.