How to Teach a Child to Read Using Phonics: The Ultimate 7-Step Guide
Are you someone who wants to know how to teach a child to read but has no clue when it comes to Phonics instruction?
This post can help you!
Coz’ in this post, I’m going to share with you the ultimate 7-steps on how to teach a child to read using Phonics.
But before we get there, I would like to draw your attention to 6 important foundational skills called ‘pre-reading skills’ that you need to focus on before you begin your phonics instruction.
Because research shows that the development of these pre-reading skills is the very foundation on which all other literacy skills such as phonics, advanced spellings skills, fluency are built.
What are Pre-Reading Skills?
To help you understand what pre-reading skills are and their importance, let’s imagine a house!
Is the house built overnight or only from the ground up?
No, isn’t it?
Building a house takes time and there is so much effort that goes into laying a strong foundation such that the quality of the house depends on the quality of the foundation.
Strong foundation = strong house.
Weak foundation = weak house.
Similarly, learning to read takes time and to become a strong, confident reader, children need to develop 6 foundational skills, also known as ‘pre-reading skills.’
In the field of education, we call the development of these foundational skills, early literacy development.
‘Development’ means ‘growth.’
Benefits of Building Pre-Reading (Early Literacy) Skills:
Developing pre-reading (early literacy) skills has tons of benefits!
Studies show that children who develop these 6 foundational skills early:
- Learn to read early.
- Enjoy school and do well at school.
- Continue to develop wonderful reading skills over time.
- Enjoy a rewarding reading experience and increased cognitive development, leading to more reading.
And…. more reading as you might agree will always help a child stay ahead of the game because ‘Readers are leaders!’
How to Support the Development of Pre-Reading Skills?
If you have gotten this far, I’m sure, you must be wondering what you can do to support the development of these pre-reading skills in your child.
Trust me, even if you are new to this term, you must be already contributing to the development of these skills.
Here’s an example!
To learn how to support and promote the development of these 6 foundational skills through simple daily conversations and interactions with your child, check out my blog 6 Important Pre Reading Skills to Prepare Your Child for Reading Success.
Phonics – The Most Effective Method to Teach a Child to Read:
Now that we have learned how to build a rock-solid foundation by developing the 6 pre-reading skills, let’s learn how to build a strong, beautiful house—how to teach a child to read!
There are many ways to teach a child to read English but the most effective way is through systematic phonics instruction.
So what is Phonics?
Well, Phonics is a method of teaching children to read and write by helping them understand the relationship between the 26 letters in the written language and the 44 sounds that they represent in the spoken language.
Here’s an example!
Some of you might be thinking, “Well, I know nothing about sounds! I know nothing about phonics! But look at me now, I can read almost anything.”
Now that you have been reading the English language for many years, you have reached automaticity, that is, the ability to recognize words without much thought.
But let’s go back to our kindergarten days and reflect on how we were taught to read to better understand the magic of phonics instruction.
Limitations of Teaching a Child to Read Using Whole Language Instruction:
Back in our days, you and I were taught to read using a reading method called the ‘whole-word approach,’ a reading method that involves a lot of rote memorization.
To help you understand why this reading method is not as effective as phonics teaching, let’s take a moment to reflect on our reading journey!
- How many of us enjoyed learning to read back in school?
- How many word spellings did we memorize before we could finally read a simple storybook all by ourselves?
- Even after we started reading, how many of us skipped a word or two or ran to our parents and teachers for help every time we came across a new word?
- How many of us read words incorrectly because we were unable to differentiate between words that looked similar, like the words drive, dive, drove, and driver?
- How many years did it take before we finally started reading confidently, fluently, and independently?
You see, English has nearly 400, 000 words so if a child has to learn words as a whole, that’s a lot of word spellings to memorize!
Moreover, English is an alphabetical language, it uses 26 letters A-Z (symbols) to represent its 44 Sounds.
So when a child is taught the 26 letters but not the sounds, the child has to memorize a bunch of random letters to learn a word without having the least idea how the word got its spellings.
Can you now see the limitations and ineffectiveness of whole language teaching?
No wonder, our reading experience was filled with a lot of confusion and frustration!
And for some of us, it took many, many years before we could finally master the art of reading.
For the other few, we still struggle with spelling, don’t we?
Benefits of Teaching a Child to Read Using Phonics Instruction:
According to the National Reading Panel,
So unlike how we learned to read by memorizing word shapes and word spelling, if we direct our children’s attention to the sounds in the language and also help them learn the relationship between those sounds and the letters that they represent in print, we can easily…..
- Cut down the time spent learning to read by half.
- Eliminate the need to memorize hundreds and thousands of word spellings.
- Empower them to decode words easily and accurately including words that they have never heard or seen before.
That’s the magic of Phonics!
How to Teach a Child to Read Using Phonics: The Ultimate 7-Step Guide
For many parents who are new to phonics, supporting their children to read using phonics at home can be a real nightmare.
But it doesn’t have to be that way for you!
Coz’ here are 7 simple steps that you can follow to help your child become a fast and fluent reader:
- 26 Letters
- 26 Letter Sounds
- The Concept of Blending
- 18 Digraphs and Alternatives
- Important Phonics & Spelling Rules and Concepts
- The Schwa
- Sight Words
1. 26 LETTERS:
Reciting the names of the letters in the alphabet is one of the first things that children learn to do.
And many children accomplish this critical milestone by learning to sing the alphabet song.
But once they learn to sing the alphabet song, it is time to help them learn that each name in the song has a shape!
There are many ways to teach letter shapes!
But an easy way is to increase their interaction with the letters in the alphabet.
So how can you teach the 26 letter names & shapes?
Simply put up alphabet charts and alphabet stickers in your child’s room.
But don’t just hang or stick them up and forget about them completely. Instead, point to the letters as you sing the alphabet song!
When our son was an infant, we put up alphabet stickers next to his crib, and at night, we sang the alphabet song and said goodbye to a letter to two. This helped him learn the letters of the alphabet in a more authentic and organic way.
Apart from this, alphabet books, alphabet puzzles, alphabet mats, and magnetic letters are some great options to help children learn letter names and shapes in a fun, interesting way!
Check out my blog post 7 Playful Ways to Teach Alphabet Letters for Kids + FREE Printables to learn fun ways to teach the alphabet to your child.
I also suggest you read my blog post 20 Must-Read Children’s ABC Books List for the list of classic alphabet books that you can read to your child.
2. 26 LETTERS SOUNDS:
Once your child learns the 26 letter names and shapes, the next step is to teach the letter sounds.
If you are new to the sounds in English, check out my video on the 44 Phonics Sounds in English to learn the right pronunciation of sounds.
Once you are familiar with the 44 Phonics Sounds in English, help your child learn the 26 letter sounds first.
How can you teach the 26 letter sounds?
Here are 4 simple ways to teach your child the 26 letter sounds:
- Sing the Phonics Song.
- Tell a silly story for each letter sound and accompany it with a silly action.
- You can check out our Letter Sounds Songs & Stories Booklet for captivating stories, songs, and actions for each letter sound.
- Play fun letter sound games.
- Check out my post, 5 Interesting Activities to Teach the Letter Sounds + FREE Printables for fun ways to teach the letter sounds.
- Do hands-on letter-sound activities.
- For this, you can use our FREE Phonics Printables on our freebie’s page.
Now that your child can identify the 26 letters by their names, shapes, and sounds, it is time to put them together to form words.
A very important skill that your child needs to learn to do this is, ‘blending.’
What is Blending?
Blending is stringing 2 or more sounds together to form words.
Here’s an example!
Some children get this concept easily but others might require extra time and practice. So I suggest you first teach 2 letter blends and then work your way to 3, 4, 5, 6 letter words.
How can you teach blending?
Check out my blog post 6 Fun Blending Sounds Activities + Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Blending to learn about a simple 4-step process to teach blending sounds and also fun blending sound activities to practice blending with your child.
If you have reached this step, it means your child can read 3, 4, 5, and even 6 letter words that are made up of the 26 letter sounds.
Now the next step is to teach digraphs!
What are digraphs?
Well, digraphs are TWO letters that represent ONE sound.
Up until this point, your child has learned that one letter makes one sound like the letter A says /a/.
But now, your child will learn how TWO letters can join together to make ONE sound.
Here’s an example!
How can you teach digraphs?
To learn more about digraphs and ways you can teach them to your child, read my blog post, A Complete Guide to Teach Digraph Sounds to Kids + Fun Activity Ideas.
5. IMPORTANT PHONICS & SPELLING RULES AND CONCEPTS:
At this point, your child must have mastered most of the phonics sounds and their frequent spellings in English.
So now, it is time to teach some important Phonics spelling rules and concepts!
Below are 10 important phonics & spelling rules and concepts that you can teach your child:
- Magic E Rule
- Y as a vowel
- C, K, CK Rule
- Soft C and G Rule
- Silent Letters
- Suffix Rule
- Double Consonants
- Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs
- Compound Words
If you are new to these rules, check out our Phonics Spelling Rules & Concepts Bundle to help your child learn important phonics & spelling rules and concepts.
This bundle includes:
- 13 Phonics E-Book that include:
- Rules and concepts.
- Practice words.
- Songs to remember the rules easily.
- 70+ Phonics Worksheets that include:
- Engaging and interactive activities such as cutting, gluing, tracing, coloring, sorting, coding, crossword puzzles, and mazes to make learning these important phonics rules fun, hands-on, and interesting!
6. THE SCHWA – ‘ə’:
If you have completed the previous steps, chances are, your child is reading and spelling at an advanced level.
So now, it is time to introduce your child to the most common yet the trickiest sound in English–the schwa.
Most schools, including many phonics curriculums, leave this sound out of the equation simply because it is such a hard nut to crack.
But because it is the most challenging sound in English, it does not mean you should not teach this sound to your child.
Trust me, learning about the schwa can save your child from a lot of headaches, especially if your child is an English learner.
Here are my top 3 reasons:
Learning about the schwa will empower your child to:
- Decode words with complex spellings easily.
- Encode words with strange spelling patterns efficiently.
- Pronounce words correctly and more naturally.
How can you teach the schwa sound?
Check out my blog 5 Simple Activities to Teach the Schwa Sound for Kids to learn more about this mysterious sound and ways to teach this important sound to your child.
NOTE: If you have gotten our Phonics Spelling Rules & Concepts Bundle, there is an e-book on the schwa sound. It includes 150 common schwa words that you can help your child practice reading and spelling.
7. SIGHT WORDS:
Although I have included sight words in the final step, you can introduce 4-5 sight words a week once your child starts reading simple 3 letter words using the 26 letter sounds.
What are sight words?
Therefore, children are encouraged to memorize these words as a whole, by sight, for the following reasons…
- Cut down the time spent decoding words.
- Increase reading speed and fluency.
- Reduce frustration and boredom.
How can you teach sight words?
Check out my blog post 7 Fun Ways to Teach Sight Words to Kids + FREE Dolch Sight Words Chart to learn more about sight words and ways you can help your child memorize them easily.
I hope this post provided you with a roadmap on how to teach a child to read!
Would love to hear from you, so don’t forget to share your feedback in the comments below!
If you are looking for a kid’s reading program, I welcome you to join our LURN Phonics Kid’s Reading Program which is a step-by-step parent-led program that is designed to help your child read and spell fluently and efficiently!
To take up this program, you do not need any prior phonics knowledge or teaching experience!
Everything is so simplified for you that all you need is a playful attitude and the enthusiasm to set aside 10-15 minutes a day to teach your child to read!
The best part is, our reading program is multisensorial and fun-based so no more tears while learning to read but lots of fun and play!
So go ahead and check out our LURN Phonics Kid’s Reading Program and I cannot wait to help you help your little one become an amazing reader and speller 🙂
National Reading Panel. (April, 2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.