Phonics Tips for Helping Kids With Letters and Sounds

Try these helpful suggestions to get your child reading in no time!

Sep 22, 2021



Phonics Tips for Helping Kids With Letters and Sounds

Sep 22, 2021

Teaching phonics letters and sounds to young readers doesn’t have to be as difficult as it would first appear. In fact, it can be a highly enjoyable process for both parents and children alike, if you have the right game plan. 

We spoke with Wiley Blevins, director of early intervention and phonics programs and writer of several Scholastic professional development phonics books, to discuss how to effectively go about teaching young children the basics of phonics.

Follow these helpful tips for teaching phonics to your beginning reader. 

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1. Start Simple

Focusing on words with two or three letters and short vowels in the beginning will create the foundation your child needs to continue expanding their vocabulary when they need phonics help. So, for example, words like at, up, run, and cat are best to concentrate on before building up to more complex words with longer vowels and vowel spellings. 

English is an alphabetic language, and as you know, it has an alphabet of 26 letters. 

“These letters by themselves, and in combination with each other, are used to represent the 44 sounds in our language,” says Blevins. “In order to read, children need to learn the most common spellings for each sound, such as the letter s for the /s/ sound or the spellings ai and ay for the ‘long a’ sound.”

Board books and read-aloud favorites are a great way to introduce these basic words and vowels. Plus, children will love following their favorite characters as they practice letters and sounds.

2. Make Learning Fun

Creating a learning atmosphere that’s fun and game-like will make all the difference in how your child absorbs new information. 

Some fun ideas include letter cards to build words and other word games. “Pay attention to words in your environment,” says Blevins. “Ask your child what they notice about these words. For example, do they know any of the letters and sounds?”

In making the environment fun, your child will feel more at ease and comfortable to pay closer attention to the material presented when they’re learning phonics. They won’t even notice that they’re in the process of learning! 

One way to do this is: After reading aloud a favorite book, choose four to five words for your child to build with letter cards. “Say the word,” says Blevins. “Help your child break apart the word sound-by-sound.”

“For example, you can ask, ‘What sounds do you hear in the word sat? I hear /s/ /a/ /t/,’ then attach a letter or spelling to each sound to build the word. For example, ‘What letter do we use to write the /s/ sound? That’s right, we use the letter s.’ Model for your child how to do this.”

3. Use Helpful Materials

Having plenty of helpful resources at the ready when you begin teaching phonics at home will also make the process easier and even more fun. 

“Select books that use rhyme and alliteration,” says Blevins. “Guide your child to find words that rhyme or words that begin with the same sound. Then prompt them to state other words that rhyme or begin with the same sound.” You can find the best rhyming books here!

Another way to squeeze in additional practice is to make writing together a common activity, whether that’s compiling a grocery list or writing an email to a relative. Have your child help you by writing letters in words (or entire words) they know.

4. Take Your Time

When it comes to teaching the basics of phonics and reading at home, the best thing to remember is that there is no rush to the process. 

“Don’t overdo it, especially if your child is younger,” says Blevins. “If they show frustration, too much is being presented too fast. Slow down and give them time to master the skills they have been taught.”

Blevins suggests focusing more on applying the skills to reading books and writing, which is the most rewarding. “Constantly review previous phonics skills your child has been exposed to. It takes children longer to master a phonics skill and apply it to both reading and writing than is provided for most children. Repetition is critical to success.”

Most importantly, remember: Learning to read is not a race! 

5. Introduce More Vocabulary

A few of the best ways to introduce new vocabulary is to expose your child to new environments, like through museums and field trips, whether that means safely in-person or virtually. 

“It can expose them to a wider vocabulary than what they are typically exposed to in daily conversations,” says Blevins. “When children read, they use their knowledge of letters and sounds to sound out, or access, the words on the page and their vocabulary and background knowledge to attach meaning to those words. This helps them to understand what they read.” 

It’s all about engaging your child with the world around them and creating bridges from what they read to what they experience first-hand. 

Above all, remember to have fun! Whether you’re trying out new books to read aloud together, playing word games, or going on a trip to a favorite museum, it’s all about having a good time while you help your child learn. 

Shop popular phonics book sets below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

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