What is phonics?
Scientific studies have repeatedly found that teaching explicit systematic phonics instruction is the most effective way to teach children how to read. Without it, some children will end up developing serious reading difficulties.
Phonics is the identification of the sounds made by individual letter or letter groups (for example, the letter “c” makes a k sound), and teaching children how to merge separate sounds together to make it one word (for example, blending the sounds k, a, t makes CAT). This type of phonics teaching is often referred to as “synthetic phonics”. Little Learner Phonics directly teaches children the specific associations between letters and sounds, rather than expecting them to gain this knowledge indirectly.
The English language is not straightforward. There are 26 letters in the alphabet and 44 distinctive sounds- this creates a complexed and often confusing literacy system which is not easy for new readers. It is important to teach letter-sound mappings in a systematic way, beginning with simple letter-sound rules and then moving onto more complex associations.
Phonics is vitality important as it teaches children how to decode letters into their respective sounds, a skill that is essential for them to read unfamiliar words by themselves. Not all children can memorise words and they need to have strategies and phonemic awareness to be able to decode and work out more complicated words.
Keep in mind that most words are in fact unfamiliar to early readers in print, even if they have spoken knowledge of the word. Having letter-sound knowledge will allow children to make the link between the unfamiliar printed words and known spoken vocabulary.
Why is phonics important?
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) demonstrated a steady decline in children’s reading ability in New Zealand since 2000. New Zealand currently has 1.8 million adults with low to poor literacy levels and current research is showing preschoolers are entering the formal school system with very little phonemic knowledge, speech delays, and poor fine/gross motor development.
In 2011 the United Kingdom showed the United Kingdom overall literacy was dramatically declining and only 52% of 6 year olds were showing reading fluency. There needed to be a drastic educational change- and so the Minister of Education required all early childhood and schools to directly teach using a systemic phonics approach. In 2017 the United Kingdom was able to show 92% of 6 years were showing fluency in reading and activity engaging more in the classroom. The research was able to demonstrate 156,000 more 6-year-olds were now reading at a fluent level with higher amounts of confidence and self-esteem.
Little Learner Phonics has a vision to lift the literacy skills of all New Zealanders across generations. Phonics is fun, child-centred and works- it lifts reading skills, builds confidence and prepares children for life-long learning!