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Phonics: How will my child learn to read?

Phonics can be a completely new experience for parents, and frequently you’ll ask yourselves “how will my child learn to read?”...

Reception teacher Becki Walker from St Mary’s and St John’s school, North Luffenham, talks about Phonics and gives some information to help and point you in the right direction.>>

What is phonics?

Phonics is the way in which children are now taught reading, through teaching phonemic awareness. This is where the children are taught the pure sounds, sounds in their simplest form, and then the range of graphemes that represent them.

How is phonics taught in schools?

Phonics can be taught through a variety of different programmes but they derive from the government document Letters and Sounds (DfE, 2007). Letters and Sounds recommends teaching reading through phonics by teaching sounds which then allow your child to then read words. Your child will learn each sound, one at a time. Once they have built up a bank of well-known sounds they will then progress on to blending these sounds into words and eventually to reading books.


There are many skills that your child will need to have before they begin learning phonics. The Letters and Sounds document has a brilliant Phase 1 section for this. It focuses on listening and attention skills and gives examples of different games you can play that will help your child gain these skills. This will then help your child when it comes to learning to read. It is important to remember that sooner is not always better with reading and that every child will progress at their own individual rate so try not to compare them!

Your school may not use Letters and Sounds as a programme but instead use a different one.

Some keywords you might hear:

Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound.

Grapheme: the written representation of a sound.

Digraph: when two letters represent one sound e.g. ck (sock)

Trigraph: when three letters represent one sound e.g. igh (high)

Blending: the ability to string sounds together to read words e.g. d/o /g as dog.

It is important to remember that there are often more than one grapheme for the same phoneme. For example ‘igh’ in high but ‘i_e’ in time. ‘ee’ in see and ‘ea’ in tea. Your child will start by learning the most common way and as they progress through the programme they will start to learn the different representations.

What can I do at home?

  • Read with and to your child. Every school has a different policy but often you will be asked to read with your child a certain amount of times during the week.

  • Encourage your child to listen to the different parts of each word. Rhyming and syllable games are great for this.

  • Blending games: blending can sometimes be tricky for children to grasp. Model blending to your child by giving them short words to begin with. Start by saying the sounds slowly b/e/d and then get a little bit quicker each time, modeling how the sounds make a word when they are said together ‘bed’.

Where can I go for more information?

If there is anything you would like to know, speak to your child’s class teacher.

This website is great and also had a guide of how to pronounce all 44 phonemes and some top tips from Ruth Miskin on how to help with phonics.

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