Planning to Teach Your Child to Read with Phonics? 3 Things to Know.
by Mary Follin
When you teach your child to read with phonics, you're calling on an ancient wisdom.
The Phoenicians were known to have used symbols to help native speakers recognize sounds of words they knew. In the beginning, the ability to read these symbols (consonants only—no vowels) was related to the culture, and a person needed contact with native speakers to understand them.
The Greeks changed all that. They added vowels and a system that made their alphabet more portable to other communities. The sounds were no longer attached to meanings. Rather, they were merely assigned to sounds in a word. A writer could actually mix them up to create new words, based only on the sounds. Then the Romans ran with it and created the alphabet we still use today.
In other words, it all started with the Phoenicians. The genius of a phonetic alphabet stems from the innovative nature of this early civilization. And did you know that Phoenician means ‘Purple People’? The Greeks dubbed them that because the Phoenicians made the purple dyes for the robes of Mesopotamian royalty, and the dye-makers’ skin would often be stained a purple hue.
Why teach your child to read with phonics?
It seems odd to discard a tradition that has stood the test of (a really long) time. If you are teaching your child to read, I would encourage you to start first with a phonics-based method. Phonics can never harm your child’s effort to learn how to read. That’s because English is a phonetic language. You’re teaching your child exactly what is on the page (or screen) in front of him or her.
But you can cause problems if you skip it. Phonics is a code. Obvious to some, but to others, a mystery. If a child is not able to decipher that code, he will struggle.
And it’s much harder to teach phonics after your child has tried to learn another way but has simply not gotten it. Because now you're dealing with much more than a missing skill. You will most likely spend years undoing the belief that has developed in your child’s heart that reading is hard and she isn’t very good at it.
Teach Your Child to Read with Phonics: 3 Things to Know
1) Phonics takes a linear, systematic approach to teaching reading.
One reason phonics is so easy to teach is that it starts at the very beginning with the sounds of the letters and builds from there. Once you've taught your child the sounds, he or she will be able to combine those sounds to build words—pretty quickly. Phonics uses a systematic approach to teaching the code of the English language, and for most children, it doesn't take too long to decipher how the code works. Rather than having to intuitively figure out what to do next, you will find that teaching your child to read is an easy, step-by-step process if you use a phonics-based approach.
2) Correct pronunciation of the sounds is critical.
Most people don't know the individual sounds of the letters and blends—or how to pronounce them. This isn't unusual, since once you've learned to read, you don't need to know how to pronounce the sounds anymore. But correct pronunciation is key to the success of teaching your child to read with phonics, so if you don't feel confident you know how to pronounce the sounds, be sure to choose a program with an audio component.
3) Repetition is key.
Perhaps the biggest resistance to using a systematic, phonics-based approach is the fear that children may become bored. Truth be told, they might. Learning the code requires a lot of repetition, especially at the beginning. For this reason, it's critical to keep your lessons REALLY short. Teach your child to read with phonics in tiny micro-lessons, and you can do your day's session on-the-go, at dinner, or while brushing hair. That way, your child won't resist your lessons, and you'll always be able to find a minute or two during the day to keep the learning going.
Whatever method you choose, you are wise to teach your child to read with phonics. Lessons will be simpler for you to follow, easier for your child to learn, and the process will go a lot faster. Give it a try!
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