Phonics for primary school is important and can help all children become independent readers. Some kids need a step-by-step approach to learning to read. Most children begin saying letter sounds first and then painstakingly string them together to read a word: “b-aaaaa-t… bat!” Sometimes a child’s slow decoding feels endless and we may wonder if he’ll ever read fluidly and effortlessly like us literate adults. This tedious process of sound-by-sound decoding shows just how much work learning to read really is.
We’ve forgotten how hard learning to read was, and we take for granted (hardly giving any thought at all) to the fact that it took us 13+ years to become excellent, engaged readers. Kids learn to decode (or read the words) in k-3 through a process of systematic phonetic analysis, starting with letter sounds and proceeding through the 44 phonics sounds.
If you have a beginning reader, you may want to read best ways to teach alphabet recognition.
Unfortunately, phonics for primary school is not universal. Many reading programs expect kids to “catch on.” Even worse, some reading programs encourage guessing, looking at pictures and memorizing- all deleterious strategies. These methods can create reading failure later on.
Phonics for primary school kids can help them learn to read. That doesn’t mean it’s easy though.
As an adult, the slow pace of decoding in beginners can come as a surprise. We may think we can recall being 5 or 6 years old, but our memories at this age are blurry at best. We don’t remember saying the sounds slowly “Ssss-aaaa-mmmm” and then blending them together “Sam!” Research unequivocally shows the importance of sound-by-sound reading and systematic phonics teaching practices. Encourage your beginning reader to go slow so he can read accurately. When teaching, always prioritize reading accuracy over reading speed.
Always encourage your student to read accurately, even if slowly.
In fact, never tell your student to read fast.
The fluency (reading speed) will come naturally with practice. Reading accuracy does not come naturally for most children. Most kids need to learn one phonics sound at a time, review that phonics sound (and old sounds) until mastery and then finally, learn another. While reading phonics books, most kids need to focus on reading one sound at a time; then, they must go back and blend the sounds together. Thus, when your beginning reader reads a sentence like, “Ted pet the dog” he should actually say: “T-eeee-d Ted p-eeee-t pet the d-oooog dog.” He should say every word 2x except “the” because the is a sight word.
In sum, beginning readers need to crack the code one sound at a time. Don’t rush them along. Never encourage reading speed. Always, always encourage your student to read accurately.
Reading Elephant offers printable phonics books that introduce one phonics sound at a time.