Getting your head around phonics can be a tricky task for parents and guardians. Many of you wouldn't have learnt to read with phonics yourself or you learnt to read with phonics so long ago that you now don't remember how phonics work. Most schools these days use phonics to teach kids to read so knowing your phoneme from your grapheme is key to supporting your children and students as they learn to read. Don't stress though, there are plenty of ways to familiarise yourself with phonics enough to confidently teach this topic to your students in the classroom or support your kids' school progress at home.
Book People recently partnered up with Read with Phonics, a website and app full of fun games to engage children with phonics and help teachers, parents and guardians check their children/students' understanding. We're supporting our friends at Read with Phonics with a special offer. By signing up to Read with Phonics, you'll be given a code which allows you to choose from a free picture book from a selection.
In order to fully understand a bit more about what exactly phonics is and how Read with Phonics can help you and your family or class, we asked former teacher and Read with Phonics founder, Sophie Cooper a little bit more about her experience with phonics and why she created the app.
My name is Sophie Cooper and I am a former Primary School teacher. Very early on in my teaching career I realised just how important learning to read is. Students who fell behind in their reading very often went on to struggle with the rest of their schooling. I came to the realisation that reading really is the foundation of all education, you simply cannot progress without it.
Both my students and I love using technology in my classroom. I knew what I was looking for and so I carried out lots of research to find a phonics resource that met my needs, but couldn't find anything. After a while I thought, I will just make my own!
Read with Phonics was originally designed purely as a tool for teachers. We developed a series of games that taught each of the phonics sounds individually following the same techniques you would use in the classroom. Each game gets systematically harder as you progress through. The main goal was to use the games to help make teachers more efficient by being able to track their students' progress and allow teachers to identify which sounds their students needed to work on the most, either individually or as a whole class. Phonics works like a code, with each sound you learn you will unlock 100's more words that you can read.
Now our goal is to use the latest technology and data science to make learning to read not only fun, but as efficient and intuitive as possible too. Our dream is to make a resource that is so intuitive that children are able to teach themselves to read through a smartphone or tablet device in the same way that you can learn a second language via Duolingo or Rosetta Stone. You can now buy a smartphone for less than $30. In 2017, more people brought a smartphone in India than in the US, despite an average annual income of less than $3,000. We are certainly not there yet, but the potential a resource like that could have on giving children all around the world a better start in life is really exciting to me.
Phonics is a method of teaching children to read. It teaches children to break down words into their individual sounds, before blending those sounds back together to be able to read the word. I like to think of phonics as a code. There are just 44 sounds in the English language, if you can learn those sounds and their different spelling combinations then you will be able to work out how to read over 90% of words in the English language.
Phonics is an incredibly powerful tool. Interestingly it doesn't teach children to read specific words, it teaches children the skills they need to work out how to read words for themselves through breaking words down. Traditionally, students learnt to read by memorising 1,000's of words individually. Phonics teaches you to recognise sounds in words and to blend those sounds together to read the words. One of my most powerful memories of phonics working is when teaching a child to read who had been taught to read by her parents through sight words. I would be reading with her and she could read some really long and complicated words far above her level, but then would fail on some really simple ones, I couldn't understand it. She would be able to read the word 'boat' for example, but when I covered up the letter 'b', to read the word 'oat', she claimed, 'I don't know that one'. Getting to grips with phonics at the beginning can take some time, but once the fundamentals are understood, the progression from then on is remarkable.
Phonics is a great tool for learning to read and can help children develop the skills they need to decipher meaning and recognise familiar sounds in most words they come across. You can find more advice from Sophie on teaching phonics at home for parents and her tips for teachers as well. We also have a phonics glossary so you can familiarise yourself with all the key phonics terms that you'll need when teaching your young learners to read. Make sure to check out Read with Phonics and get your free book from us.