Phonics very simply put is using letter sounds to help you read the words. Most schools use phonics to teach reading. Research shows that teaching reading through phonics enables a child to read at a faster pace. Children at school begin developing their listening skills through the sound of words.

Building words from sounds use the sounds of the alphabet to build simple words. All the words have three letters: a consonant, a vowel and a consonant (c-v-c). Being able to recognize the sounds in words is an important part of good spelling and fluent reading.

How do I teach phonics to my child?

One of the easiest and the best way to do this is by using a word and picture chart. The chart shows pictures of all the words the child needs to learn. The words are made of three sounds. Each word has a picture to help the child remember it. Ask the child to color each picture, saying the word clearly. This will reinforce and personalize learning: each child will have their unique word chart. You could also cut up the chart to make flashcards for further consolidation.

Another way to teach phonics is through teaching the beginning, middle and ending sounds. Here’s an approach to help you:

Beginning sounds:

These exercises focus on practising recognition of sounds at the beginning of the words. The beginning sound of each word is missing, e.g., _am – ‘j’ is missing. The words and pictures are all shown on your word/picture chart or book that you have chosen. Take each picture and ask the child to:

1. Say the word and then the beginning sound.

2. Find the beginning sound of that word.

3. Draw a line to join the sound to the picture.

4. Write the sound in the box, saying “jam begins with j”.

Ending sounds:

These exercises focus on practicing recognition of sounds at the end of words. There are pictures and words for each sound. For example, there are two pictures and two words for each sound. The ending sound of each word is missing, e.g.: va_ ‘n’ is missing. Take each picture and in turn ask the child to:

1. Say the word and then the ending sound.

2. Find the ending sound of that word

3. Draw a line to join the sound to the picture.

4. Write the sound in the box, saying “van ends with n”.

Middle Sounds:

These exercises focus on practicing recognition of the short vowel sounds in the middle of the words. For example, there are two pictures and two words for each vowel. The middle sound of each word is missing, e.g.: m_n – ‘a’ is missing. Take each picture and ask the child to:

1. Say the word and then it’s middle sound.

2. Find the middle sound of that word.

3. Draw a line to join the sound to the picture.

4. Write the letter in the box, saying “ a is in man”.

5 fun ways to practice phonics with your child:

1. When you’re out and about, listen out for sounds – birdsong, traffic noises, etc. Can your child tell you what made the sound? Can they copy it?

2. Sing songs and say rhymes together. Can your child clap when they hear a rhyming word?

3. Clap or tap a rhythm. Can your child copy it? Can they clap their own rhythm for you to copy?

4. Play ‘hunt the word’, using words and sounds that they know from school. Say ‘Can you find the word ‘mum’ on this page? Can you find a word that starts with ‘s’?

5. Encourage your child to look for words in the world around them, such as on street signs, shop signs, posters etc. Praise them for having a go at reading these words, and help them if necessary.

Recommended phonic books:

1. I’m Ready to Learn Collection: 20 books:  

This collection of 20 books contains 12 phonic readers, 6 stickers filled workbooks and 2 sets of flashcards. The phonic readers work wonders because they cover the Ladybird levels from 1-12. It’s got the 3 E’s- easy, engaging and enjoyable!

2. Dr Seuss A Cat in the Hat series:

Apart from being a crazy, fun character, the book has easy rhyming sentences that make an interesting read. The books also help in understanding the sounds of letters and blending of words.

3. Curious George Series: This series has 12 phonic books which have simple sentences. Each book has a guide which sets the words you use in the book and the child can look for the words in the book. It’s even more exciting because of curious George being a very relatable character to most toddlers.

4. Very First Reading from Usborne: This book works great as it’s shared reading wherein the child reads one page and the adult the other page. Hence, reading together takes place which begins at the kindergarten stage and continues until grade 1. Children start by learning just a few phonemes, then learn to combine these in order to read beginning words. In addition to having a parent guide, each book includes activities based on phonics, word lessons, story summarization and story sequencing.

5. Step into reading series: The books come with easy words, picture clues and big text. The first series is for those children who know the alphabet and are eager to begin reading. There one or two syllable words on each page. Repetition is the key in all their books.

Research shows that when phonics taught in a structured way starting with the easiest sounds is the most effective way to teach young children to read. Through phonics, your child will be able to read more accurately and easily tackle new words

As natural as speaking a language might seem to us right now,
Understanding it and picking up the nuances in it is quite difficult as a
Child. When your child speaks and writes, he ought to know how the word is
Formed and spoken and what it means, and all of these needs to be done quickly
In the head so that he can write and speak at a normal pace, like everyone. All
Of these skills related to comprehending language, expressing it, and picking
Up newer ones, can get a boost by understanding phonics.

Hello English Kids caters specifically to learning phonics in a methodical manner. The app focuses on teaching letter sounds, blending and decoding. The games are designed to encourage independent learning. It’s an innovative approach to teaching consonants and vowel sounds as your child explores an island with dropping the jewels in a treasure chest. The app capitalises the interest of the child in their games and this can be seen in the blending games wherein your child has to ‘feed the froggie words which begin with… sound.’

As parents, we know practice makes perfect and Hello English Kids hit the nail on the head because it makes your child practice while having fun! Short and visually stimulating games reinforce all short and long vowel sounds. As an icing on the cake, there are phonic books on the avatars of the app. These are stories with specific phonic sounds which enable your child to retain the sound as it’s in a context. Finally, most educators advocate the concept of ‘ Say, Cover, Spell, Write, Check’ which has proven to have the best success in helping children learn. The games are designed with this concept, but your child may be unaware of every step covered. Viola! You have your child learning phonics in a fun and systematic manner.