Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Children learn to read and write by being taught Phonics.
Letter Names and Sounds
In Phonics children learn the SOUNDS of the different letters of the alphabet.
But my child knows their A, B, Cs?
Knowing the sounds is not the same as knowing the alphabet.
The sounds that the letters make must be learned, usually by daily short repetitive lessons, for children to later blend the sounds in a word and read.
Children may already know the letter NAMES through singing the alphabet song, but this is not AS important as knowing the SOUNDS for their reading and writing success.
Ideally, they would learn all the sounds and then be taught that letters also have names but when we read we use the sounds and not the names.
Here’s an example: cat
If you were to try to read cat using letter names you would trip up right away because the first sound is a ‘c-c-c’ rather than ‘see’ which is the name of the sound. It would read as ‘see-ay-tee’ which is clearly wrong.
If this is all new to you then I strongly recommend you learn the sound of each letter yourself if you ever hope to support your child in reading and writing in English.
But I already know all the sounds?
This is where I want to explain an extremely common error that parents, teachers and children make all the time that can actually hinder your child’s learning.
Take the ‘c’ sound again. The sound the letter makes is ‘c-c-c’ but it is often mispronounced or said lazily as ‘cuh-cuh-cuh’.
A similar thing happens with ‘t’. People mistakenly say ‘tuh-tuh-tuh’.
Now imagine asking your child to put the sounds together after telling them that the sounds are ‘cuh-ah-tuh’. Cuahtuh.
Hopefully, you can see how this can lead to confusion and less proficient reading.
Instead, children should read a CVC word like 'cat' by saying each of the three sounds: c-a-t and then blending the sounds together to make the word.
Helping kids with Phonics at home might be especially difficult if your own first language is not English, but I know you can do it and you will probably be improving your own English reading skills too along the way!
Oxford Reading Owl have an extremely useful list of phonics sounds with audio showing how they are pronounced. If you're helping kids with Phonics at home, I would definitely bookmark that list so that you can refer back to it to make sure you're getting the sounds of those letters right!
What have you found difficult about supporting young readers? Let me know! I'd love to hear your comments on this subject. Email me here.