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Phonics made easy

Help your child learn to read

Phonics is the method used by primary schools in England to teach children to read. When your child is learning to read using phonics, there are two crucial things that they will be taught:

  • the sounds represented by written letters
  • how to blend the sounds together to make words

Supporting your child as they learn to read using phonics is the most important thing you can do to help them at school. Here, our phonics expert Ruth Miskin shares her top tips on how best to help with phonics. We’ve also included a helpful audio guide that will help you learn how to say the 44 phonics sounds correctly.

Expert videos and audio help
Ruth Miskin's top tips for teaching phonics at home

1. Saying sounds correctly
This is really important when you are helping your child to learn the sounds. Just remember not to add an 'uh' to the end of the consonant sounds – so say 'mmm' not 'muh', 'lll' not 'luh', etc. because then later it’s easier to blend the sounds together to make words.

If you’re not sure then use our sound chart to hear how to say each sound .

2. Linking sounds to letters
Encourage your child to make a link between the sound and the written letter shape. Start with the sounds in your child’s name and then look out for them in signs. The sound m in McDonalds is always a good starting point too!

3. Sounds represented by more than one letter
Some sounds are represented by more than one letter such as 'sh' in ship, 'ch' in chat, 'th' in thin, 'qu' in quick and 'ng' in sing. When you’re out and about point out examples of these to your child too. You might see them in posters, signs, or leaflets.

4. Practise, practise, practise
Build up a knowledge of the letters and sounds quite quickly with your child and keep practising so that it becomes automatic. Keep reminding ‘Do you remember when we were talking about the sound 'ch'...?’, or ‘Oh look! There’s a big 't' (sound) on that poster!’.

5. Putting sounds together to read simple words
Say the sounds 'c-a-t' to read cat, 'sh-o-p' to read shop and' s-t-r-ee-t' to read street. If your child gets stuck and is struggling to blend the sounds, say the sounds yourself, quickly, until your child can hear the word!

Only beginner readers need to sound out every word as they read all the time. But, they will still need to work out new and long words.

6. Tricky words
Some everyday words in English have tricky spellings and can’t be read by blending. Imagine trying to read the word 'said' or 'does' by blending each letter! These are sometimes called high frequency tricky words , or Red words. These words just have to be learned by sight and flashcard-type games are a good way to practise these.

7. Reading books
Schools using a synthetic phonics scheme are likely to be sending home decodable books. This means the books contain mostly words that children can read by sounding out to get them off to a good start with independent reading. After your child has read a page, you can read it aloud again, to make sure that the story is enjoyed and understood.

8. Using pictures
Pictures are great for sharing and talking about a story (which is really important too!) but don’t encourage your child to use pictures to guess the words that they don’t already know.

9. Writing letters
Teach your child how to write the letters as the letter sounds are learned. And don’t forget to show your child how to hold the pencil correctly too!

10. Common sense ...
Lots and lots of books! Carry on sharing and reading lots and lots of stories and information books to and with your child.

11. Praise and hugs!
Most importantly, remember that your child will learn much faster with encouragement, praise and hugs.

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