We know how important is it for parents and guardians to help their children learn to read at home but we also know that using phonics as a teaching method isn't always easy. Recently, we began a partnership with Read with Phonics, a website and app that aims to make learning and teaching phonics fun and engaging for children and adults. We then spoke to former teacher and Read with Phonics founder, Sophie Cooper, about how she thinks phonics can be taught at home and advice for parents and guardians who might be struggling.
A child learning to read with phonics makes life simpler for the parent or guardian because you are not just relying on constant repetition of seeing the same word over and over. With phonics, you just need to stick to the same process used by their teachers at school. If they are stuck on a word, encourage children to break the word down into sounds, help them with any sounds they don't know, and then blend the sounds back together to read the word. This way, in time, when children are reading by themselves, they will be able to work out how to read the word on their own and the rate of progression will be huge.
Learning to read is one of the most exciting times in a child's life. Reading is also one of the first things children are able to do alone without the help of their parents so it gives them a sense of independence. It also fills parents with a lot of pride! Without doubt, parents and guardians reading with their children is the biggest factor in how well a child learns to read. One-on-one time in school is very limited and so parents who read with their children for just 5 minutes a day will have a dramatic impact on their child's education. And remember, little and often is best. 5 minutes a day is much better than 30 minutes once a week on the weekend.
Many parents nowadays didn't learn to read with phonics, I know that I didn't. Many feel the concept is too complicated to grasp and it can often be poorly explained. That is what we are trying really hard to work on at Read with Phonics, to help parents understand the benefits and concept of phonics in the most easily digestible way. We don't like to talk about digraphs, trigraphs and split digraphs too early on, it makes phonics sound complicated.
We like to promote 'How to read with your child' and have developed a bookmark to help parents on this. We like to encourage parents and teachers to start out with phonics by learning the sounds of the alphabet as single letter sounds are much easier to recognise. Rather than learning your ABCs, we believe it is better for children to learn the letter sounds before they learn the letter names, which is why we developed the ABC Phonics Song!
The way phonics works is that the more sounds you know, the more words you will be able to read. It really is as simple as that. Read with Phonics teaches you all of the 44 sounds that enable you to read words, sentences and then whole books! We do this in the same way that your child is taught in school, so there is great continuity between school and home.
Our aim is for children to fall in love with reading at an early age. Without doubt the best way to do this is by reading physical books, there is no getting away from the magic of reading or being read to as a child. As a digital resource we are very aware of this and that is one of the main reasons we have partnered with Book People to help promote this very important message to our users. For every online purchase of our games you get a free children's book.
Saying that, however there is also no getting away from the practicality of smartphone and tablet devices. Electronic devices that allow us to track student progress and tailor lessons specifically to each students' specific needs. Read with Phonics does just that, it makes screen time effective. Because our games are fun and engaging, children learn without even realising. Each child has their own game meaning they are able to learn at their own pace and in their own time, whether on the ride home from school or at home on the weekends. We are also curriculum-aligned, our games work alongside any phonics program taught in schools in the UK.
- Play phonics detectives at home using your story books. Choose an appropriate target sound. Can you find all of the words that have that sound? Can you write the word and highlight the sound?
- When reading with your child it is very important to know what to do if they get stuck on a word. Firstly, be patient and don't make a big deal of it. Simply ask them to sound it out and blend it back together. This will help highlight to you which sound in the word they are struggling with and also introduce new sounds that they don't know yet. They will also be practicing their decoding skills, something that teachers will be doing in their phonics lessons at school.
- Make it fun! Learning phonics at home can be really fun and should never feel like a chore! As you learn new phonics sounds, why not gradually make a set of phonics flashcards together for each one? As well as the sound you could also include an example of a word with the sound in and a drawing. These can then be put up around the house or hidden for a hide and seek game, just get creative!
- When reading with your child it is important to choose a book that they will be interested in. It is no point reading about dragons if your child loves trains!
- To check comprehension and encourage engagement in the story it is great to ask some questions before and during the book. What do you think this story is going to be about? Why do you think that? What do you think is going to happen next? Why do you believe that?
Now you have plenty of ideas to help you introduce phonics to your children. Once they get the hang of reading with phonics they'll be well on their way to becoming confident readers and starting a life-long love of reading. You can find more tips from Sophie for teachers as they introduce phonics in the classroom on our blog as well and have a look at our phonics glossary to de-mystify some of the most common phonics terms.