Are you a parent of a preschooler? Has she already started learning phonics at home or in school? Yes, phonics – an extremely popular and beneficial way of teaching children how to read and write.
So, let’s understand what is phonics?
Phonics is an interactive method for teaching children how to read confidently and fluently by combining some 44 sounds of the English letters. Yes, you read it right 26 letters represent 44 sounds in the English language. For example, we mostly pronounce the letter ‘C’ as /k/sound, like in cat, catch, camel, etc. But in the words like city, face, or ice, the letter ‘C’ has /s/ sound. In this case, the rule is when ‘C’ comes directly before the letters ‘e’, ‘i’, or ‘y’, we use the /s/ sound. But in other cases, we use a /k/ sound.
Isn’t it interesting? Learning phonics is quite easy as well. Go online and explore or read Phonics from A to Z: A Practical Guide. You can buy the book here.
Why is learning phonics important?
Learning phonics helps children understand how to decode letters into their respective sounds. It is a skill that children can develop from an early age to read unfamiliar words correctly with confidence. I have seen many children, despite having a good spoken knowledge of words, are unable to read simple words properly. In such cases, phonics knowledge would help them to make a connection between the unfamiliar print words to their spoken knowledge.
In every guided reading session, (what is it? Explore here) I encourage my students to apply their phonics knowledge in reading new and unfamiliar words. You won’t believe, within months they demonstrate surprising development in their reading comprehension skill. With regular practice, their decoding skills become so strong that they can concentrate and easily understand the overall meaning of what they are reading.
Moreover, phonemic awareness helps them understand the basics of word-formation. Once they understand this, they can independently break down words into their sounds. For example, they can break the word CAT to its sounds like /k/ /a/ /t/. As parents or teachers, you need to encourage them to apply this knowledge not only in reading but also in writing and spelling.
With their developed phonics knowledge, children achieve fluency, and as they keep on reading more books, they become more imaginative and empathetic. From books, they learn about various people, places, and events and start imagining how would they feel in those situations.
On top of this, if your kids have sound phonic knowledge, you don’t have to spend much time and effort in teaching them the syllable structure in words. They will understand that a closed syllable will end in a consonant and have a short vowel sound, but an open syllable will end with a long sounding vowel.
Being a mother of a toddler, I always want my daughter to perform well in her academics as well as in a professional career. According to me, one of the most important stepping stone on this journey is to become a fluent and confident reader. I always believe children should start reading from an early age. I, in fact, started reading to her when she was still in my womb; and this habit is still going strong. I am an avid reader, and I can see slowly gradually she is also developing the habit.
Professionally I am a teacher and a trained phonic instructor. I have seen children read confidently if they have strong phonic knowledge. With me, my daughter, a preschooler, has started her ‘learning phonics’ journey. I have initiated teaching her the letter sounds, the first step of most of the phonics programs. I show her one letter and then say the sound it represents. It is better, to begin with, the letters S, A, T, P, I, and N first, so that she can sound out a wide variety of words like sat, pin, pat, etc.
Believe me, when children start identifying and combining sounds in words and sentences, you will be amazed to see their developed autonomous literacy skills.
Surprised? Not really, I believe.
We all know that everything has positive and negative sides and phonics is not an exception. Though learning phonics support children learn to read both familiar and unfamiliar words, some high-frequency words don’t follow the phonics rule. For example, the word ‘one’ starts with /w/ sound, and the word ‘of’ ends with /v/ sound. So, even after having good phonics knowledge, children may have to memories the pronunciation of the high-frequency words.
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