The Critical Importance of Phonics in Teaching Kids to Read
Learning Phonics and Reading to Children
Phonics is a necessary part of any good method of teaching children to read. Teaching Children phonics and helping them develop phonemic awareness is the key to mastering words, which is the first key step toward successful reading. Children need to develop a knowledge of the letters, the sounds represented by the letters, and the connection between sounds created by combining the letters where words are formed. This is an essential part of mastering reading, and enabling children to become independent readers. By learning phonics and phonemic awareness, children gain the ability to pronounce new words, develop clear articulation, improve spelling, and develop self confidence. Here's a short video of our 4 year old daughter reading.
When it comes to teaching your children to read, it must include three basic principles:
1) Reading for the child, whether it's a sentence, story, or rhyme, it must appeal to your child's interests.
2) Never pressure or force your child into reading, turning it into a negative "event" in their life. It should be a fun, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. This will take ample amounts of patience on the part of the parents, and some creativity.
3) Teaching your child to read must begin with the mastery of the phonemes - the individual sounds which makeup the words.
The basic process of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness to children includes teaching them the letters and letter sounds; then you teach the child to combine (or blend) various letter sounds together to form words; which is then followed by reading sentences and simple stories. This is a logical progression for children to learn reading, where they develop accuracy in decoding words and pronouncing words. This method of teaching also helps the child to spell correctly. Gradually, the different elements of phonics are combined to produce new words, and leads to the discovery of new words by the child using this process which becomes an "automatic reflex".
How to Teach Phonics to Children by Blending Sounds
Teaching phonics to children should take 10 to 15 minutes each day, and these "lessons" should take place in several small sessions each day - such as 3 or 4 session lasting 3 to 5 minutes each. For slightly older children, lessons can be a bit longer; however, several minutes each session is all that's needed.
One way to start teaching phonics and phonemic awareness to children is to start with with ear training - by helping them develop the understanding that words are made up of smaller units of sounds, or known as phonemes, and when you combine these sounds, a word is formed. You can start this with very short sessions, as already mentioned. A few minutes a day is all that you need. The key, however, is consistency and patience.
During these short sessions, sound out words slowly and distinctly. You can do this without even making the child aware that you are trying to teach them. Simply take words from your everyday speaking to your child and include oral blending sounds into your sentences. For example, if you wanted to ask your child to drink his milk, you could say: "Joe, d-r-i-n-k your m-ilk." The words drink and milk are sounded out slowly and distinctly. The level of sound separation can be set by you to increase or lower the difficulty. Thus, if Joe has a tough time figuring out that d-r-i-n-k means drink, you can lower the difficulty by blending the word as dr-ink instead.
Alternatively, you could simply pick different words and play blending sounds games with your child. You simply say the sounds of the word slowly, and ask the child try to guess what you are saying.
This concept of individual sounds forming words may take some time for your child to grasp. Some children will pick it up quickly, while other children may take longer, but one thing that's certain is that if you keep it up, your child will catch on. Below are some simple examples which you can use to play blending sounds activities with your child.
J-u-m-p J-ump juuuummmp
R-u-n R-un rrrrruuuunnnn
S-i-t S-it sssssiiiiiit
The first word is more segmented than the second word, and will be more difficult to sound out. Please note that hyphens are used to indicate the letter sounds instead of slashes.
ie: J-u-m-p /J/ /u/ /m/ /p/
This is done to make things easier to read; however, when you read it, you should not read the names of the letters, but instead say the sounds of the letters. This type of ear training for phonics and phonemic awareness should continue throughout the teaching process, even well after your child have grasped this concept. It can be applied to words with increasing difficulty. Again, please always keep in mind that not all children can readily blend the sounds to hear the word, so you must be patient, and drill this for days, weeks, or even months if needed. Consistency and frequency is the key to success here, and not sporadic binge sessions.
If you would like to learn about a simple step-by-step program designed to easily teach your child to read, please click here.