How Phonic Sounds Boost Early Childhood Literacy

August 6, 2016 2:14 pm Published by

You have seen how simple it is to begin your child’s reading future. Let us examine the next easy step. When he can easily read.

‘Ben and Pip put rags, pegs, hats, figs, mugs and maps in a bag and jump on it.’

Now add the following sight words.

You, the, they, I, me, no, little,your,we, beautiful, come, go, to, be she, saw, my, house, was, do, for, he.

Twenty-two words which are excellent link words but which, in the main, cannot be sounded. Treat them as you did the letters of the alphabet. Each should be printed clearly in red felt pen on white filing cards. An excellent way to learn the words is to hold up each card, tell your child what it is and place the card on the floor for a game. When there are, say, five cards in a line walk together along the ‘stepping stones’ as the word is read correctly. Add to these cards slowly until the full twenty-two become a bridge across a pond, or a path into a forest to meet a friendly bear. Favourite cartoon characters or stuffed toys add to the enjoyment and colour. You suggest to the child:

”Let’s walk along the path and find Dizzy Dog. You can show him how many words you know. Do you think Dizzy can learn them?”

When the sight words are thoroughly learnt you can write sentences like, ‘Can I visit your house and sit on your b-l-a-n-k-e-t and let the beautiful little robin sit on my hand?’

Keep playing stepping stone/bridge games and feed your little one plenty of simple sentences – no ‘y’ on the ends of words , no ‘ch’ or ‘th’,  only the base alphabet and sight words. Importantly don’t ask him to read the text of a book, that is the beginning of guesswork and can be ruinous. Do, however, be word detectives and hunt for your sight words in books, shops, on menus, everywhere. Reading is part of life.

Slowly and methodically excellence is achieved.

In my next post I shall take you a step further and it is never, ever more difficult than this.

Now why? Why should you have to teach your child this skill? Why not the schools?

When I began teaching in 1959 school day was basic. A pie chart would have devoted roughly forty percent to English, encompassing reading, writing, spelling, grammar and English exercises. Around thirty percent would be maths, including rote chanting of tables – invaluable since they form the basis of maths to university and beyond. The remaining thirty percent of my teaching day was given to history, geography , PE, RE and all those ‘lesser’ subjects which would have shared that thirty percent on various days.

Early literacy was taken for granted and reading was paramount, I had no teaching assistant and was required to ‘hear’ every child every day. I alone, was expected to hand them up at the end of the year as competent readers. Reading was a subject on its own, not simply a vague requirement for other subjects.

On my side I had time and control. I was able to administer light corporal punishment and anybody determined to disrupt a class would go to the headmaster for ‘six o’ the best’ – which the wide boys would do for a laugh. There were regular offenders but in general children knew their parameters and respected us as teachers. More importantly parents respected us as professionals, staff rooms were friendly and we respected each other.

Above all, we never dealt with grief counselling lessons, gender issues, racial respect, sex, religious differences, immigrant issues, or any of the zillion extra subjects that undermine the curriculum today. I don’t intend to be critical, simply to state the more time-slivers removed from the daily pie chart the less time is left for the traditional 3Rs. Maths is rightfully being taught as a subject, but reading is simply a part of geography, science and general English. I teach children right now, who never read to anybody at school and who have no spelling lists for weeks on end. I listened to every child every day. Teaching assistants were unheard of. Even with a class of fifty Year Six students each read a paragraph for an excellent reader, a page for a struggler. Remember, I had discipline and back-up. Boundaries were established, we could work and achieve. Above all my children had a secure phonic sounds background. They could decode any word – it was easy.

Your child will have a beautiful, bright, colourful classroom. She will learn maths, history, geography, lots of RE and shed loads of social and environmental information. She will have wonderful resources, computers, an interactive whiteboard and musical instruments we only dreamed about. But she will not learn to read. She will progress through a series of colour coded books, being encouraged to guess from picture clues, memory and context. But from my experience up until now, there will be no formal reading. You will do the reading at home with your child but there will be no structured approach, simply new words to learn by heart with each new book. And if your child is a casualty you will not know until he/she is seven, eight or nine when you will be told, ”Johnny is struggling and needs reading support,” (a remedial reading teacher). One school sent me a six year old dyslexic child who hadn’t a clue and made up the stories. When I tested his nine year old sister she did exactly the same, only faster. Their parents, who ‘listened’ to their children while doing other jobs, were not remotely aware their children could not read. I took them both back to a, b, c and now one is doing A levels, having got into a top performing 6th Form College, the other who also sailed into that same 6th Form College is about to embark on a degree in English literature.

You must be the proactive element in your child’s future. You can see how simple it is to protect him/her from a frightening, miserable, frequently bullying time at school and from being a casualty. And it is all so very simple.

My next post will take you a step further in fast phonics and explain why these phonics beat all other systems. I shall also discuss which children are likely to have reading problems at school.

This is Teaching Post 2

Link to Teaching Post 3

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This post was written by Alonah Reading Cambridge

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