“Parents often hear their children and teachers talking about phonics, but are unsure what it means. Putting it quite simply, ‘phon’ means sound (‘phono’ is ancient Greek for ‘sound’) and phonics refers to a method of teaching reading, by matching sounds with letters:
- Before children start to learn how to read, there are some ‘pre-reading’ skills that need to be mastered, including phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. These are the building blocks that form the foundation upon which children learn to read. They should be learnt naturally at home as parents talk with, listen to and read with their young children
- Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and work with the sounds and rhythms of language. Young children listen to ‘talk’ and begin to imitate those sounds and rhythms – think of the noises a baby makes, such as ‘da da da’. In homes where there isn’t a lot of ‘talk’ and interaction, children often have difficulty learning to read. When children learn that some words begin with the same sound e.g. bat and ball, they are developing their phonological awareness. Next, they develop phonemic awareness
- Phonemic awareness is understanding that words are made up of individual sounds called phonemes e.g. the word ‘hat’ has three distinct sounds or phonemes, /h/, /a/, /t/. Children learn to take a word apart into each sound (to segment or decode) and to put together the sounds to make words (to blend or encode)
- Phonics instruction, which children receive at primary school during Key Stage 1, is the further development of phonemic skills. Children learn the correspondence between sounds and the spelling patterns (known as graphemes) that represent them – for example the phoneme /or/ is spelt in different ways in fork, saw, and caught
- This all sounds complicated, but it’s not. As parents, if we interact as much as we possibly can with our children from an early age, we will give them the best start to learning about language. If we read and talk with them every day we will give them a great chance of becoming confident, successful readers”
So the moral of the story is, teach your children to love books – and learn from them as well! Glug Glug!