The current controversy in reading instruction centers on whether it is better for newbie readers to begin with whole-word/word recognition or phonics instruction. We’ve found that phonics skills are essential for learners encountering new words. Decoding – sounding out words by using letter-sound relationships – proves to be a more effective strategy as kids move on to texts where knowledge of sight words/high-frequency words is not enough.
Whole Language vs. Teaching of Phonics
The importance of strong reading skills has been proven by multiple studies. But which is more effective? The Whole Language approach teaches children to read with whole words – think of sight words as the simplest example. In conjunction with whole words, students are taught to use context clues and background knowledge when encountering new words in a text. In a Phonics Program, reading instruction begins with the individual sounds of the letters in the alphabet. It goes on to introduce letter combinations with a focus on long and short vowel sounds. Even in a language like English, which can hardly be said to have letters with consistent sounds, phonological awareness boosts a kid’s decoding skills.
Phonemic Awareness as a Foundational Skill
There are many ways that you can help your early reader when she’s learning phonics. Books like Hop on Pop, and series like Tug the Pup and/or Bob Books and/or Pinkalicious give you what you need to reinforce or provide phonics lessons while reading aloud or teaching children to read to you. Another option for systematic phonics instruction is available through the Hooked on Phonics program.
Young children want to read. When teaching reading, the more opportunities for success, the better. So, while being able to read “cup,” “up,” and “pup” may not strike an older child as anything to celebrate, your pre-K or first-grade kid will be proud of his early reading ability and eager to take on more.
Sound literacy skills are at the heart of reading comprehension. And, solid reading comprehension is vital, not just on tests but also in the wider world of written materials, from online searches to emails and reports. A reading program that helps kids gain confidence in their literacy skills is essential. Because of this, your child needs mastery of phonics as a foundational skill.