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The most popular and recommended technique today to teach your child to read is with phonics. There are different approaches and systems available but they are all built on the same fundamental ideas and follow a similar path.

If you want to start teaching your child to read with phonics you should first understand the phonics approach to teaching reading. Second, you should know how to introduce your child to this reading system in an accessible and enjoyable way.

Reading with phonics

The phonics approach to reading starts with teaching your child individual letter sounds. As your child progresses the focus shifts from figuring out individual letter sounds to understanding the words. From there the focus moves to understanding sentences then whole stories

When teaching your child phonics it is good to have a general understanding of the phonics approach to teaching reading but ideally you should follow an existing and well defined system.

Initially your child will have to learn to recognize letters and know the most common sounds they make. Typically, capital letters are introduced initially. Lower case letters are often introduced at a later point after the child has developed a certain amount of familiarity with upper case letters. At this stage the focus should be more on the sounds the letters make more than the actual names of the letters.

As the child learns the sounds of letters they will also learn blending. Blending is the ability to combine letter sounds smoothly. Blending does not come naturally and will take some time to develop. With practice the concept of blending will ‘click’ for your child.

At this point your child will be learning simple words and simple letter combinations. As reading skills progress, more and more letters are introduced as well as longer words. After a good foundation is in place letter combinations and letter sound variations can be introduced.

As the basic skill of recognizing letters and reading words is developed focus shifts to reading word combinations and sentences. This presents a challenge to early readers because they typically read slowly and don’t always remember the beginning of a sentence by the time they reach the end. This is normal and there are things you can do to help them at this stage.

One technique that you can use is to repeat the sentence up to the word they are reading as they read each word. You can also encourage them by asking questions about the part of the sentence they have read already. For example as they read ‘The cat’ ask ‘what about the cat?’ They would then read the next word ‘ran’ you could ask ‘where did the cat run to?’. This will help them remember the context of what they are reading while encouraging them to read further. As their skills develop and they read faster they will be better able to recall all the words of the sentence as well as re-read it if necessary.

Even at this stage your child should still sound out the individual sounds of words from time to time — especially new words. This isn’t necessary for all words all the time but it does help develop their phonemic awareness as well as reinforce their ability to recognize the individual sounds and blend them together.

As they become more comfortable reading sentences, poems and short stories can be introduced. Initially they will need support, guidance, and encouragement but, as with anything, their skills will develop with practice.

At this point your child will be learning new vocabulary along with developing their reading comprehension skills. As they develop they should be encourage to read on their own. Ultimately your child will develop the ability to read as an automatic reflex when they see printed words.

Phonics for children

Understanding how a child develops their reading skills using a phonics approach is one thing. Actually getting your child involved and maintaining a good reading practice over the long term is a separate challenge.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when teaching your child to read is that you don’t want to pressure or force your child. If you child is being resistant or uncooperative go do something else and come back to learning later. You do not want your child to develop a negative feeling towards learning as this will negatively influence all future learning activities. With the proper approach you will find that your child will enjoy the reading process.

Praise and encouragement is important as your child progresses. This will motivate them and help them to feel good about themselves and the process. It also builds self-confidence and leads to a sense of accomplishment. Don’t scold or reprimand your child — simply be patient and allow your child to learn at their own pace. At the very least praise their effort.

Children naturally want to learn but not always what you want them to learn when you want them to. I found with my own daughter that initially she enjoyed and looked forward to reading. This initial interest eventually subsided but she still initiates reading sessions when she is in the mood for it. I am also able to sneak in reading practice using Edushape Edu-Tiles 36 Piece 6x6ft Play Mat, Letters & Numbers SetExternal Link and Magnetic Wooden AlphabetExternal Link.

Depending on the age of your child and their level of development you can explain to them that they will be learning how to read and that you will be practicing every day. This will help set up expectations and allows you to build up the event in your child’s mind as something that is important as well as fun and enjoyable. If your child is very young you can simply start introducing them to letter shapes and sounds.

As mentioned above, always keep the learning process a positive one. If your child doesn’t want to read it is ok to skip a lesson. Sometimes children will be tired or hungry and this can interfere with their ability to sit and focus on learning reading. Keep this in mind when choosing times to teach reading to your child. You can also introduce phonemic awareness activities throughout the day for variety and to keep your child interested.

As your child progresses it is important that they review previous material that they have already covered. Repeated practice and exposure is important. Review sessions should be easier for your child and will be easier to work into their daily routine. It can also give your child a sense of accomplishment by allowing them to see how far they have come and that they can read their earlier, simpler material with ease.

If you are looking for a complete reading system I have found the Children Learning Reading program to be very effective with my own child.

Related Pages

When do kids start reading?
What is phonics
Reading with phonics for children
What is phonemic awareness?
Phonemic awareness activities
Reading comprehension skills