Phonics – What, When & Why

Phonics is a user-friendly way of learning to read from scratch that teaches children the 43 phonetic sounds in English (25 consonant and 18 vowel sounds). It is an extremely efficient system that is not just about recognising words on a page, but making them come alive by sounding them out and pronouncing them.

4 years is the perfect age for children to learn reading skills. This is when their attention span lengthens, and they become better suited to group learning. You could enrol your kid in a good Phonics programme or maybe teach her yourself. At this age a child’s cognitive development is also nicely suited to grasping the concepts of Phonics. Remember, starting to talk and make sounds is part of the brain’s natural function; reading is an acquired skill.

Why is Phonics a necessary component in your child’s development? First of all, this is a system that encourages children to read independently as well as comprehend what they read, and Phonics achieves this by teaching them how to decode (read and pronounce) and encode (spell) phonetic sounds. By Primary 1 your child will be well-equipped to handle the curriculum.

Secondly, you will see a vast improvement in your child’s spelling, thanks to Phonics’ emphasis on the individual “building-blocks” of a word.

A third important reason is that Phonics also teaches correct, more precise pronunciation by focusing on the way letters and letter groups sound. Too often foreigners are unable to understand the way English is spoken by Singaporeans because of shoddy pronunciation. “Six” becomes “sick,” “three” turns into “tree,” and “film” is either “fillem” or “flim.” Phonics achieves an all-round improvement in English fluency.


© 2008 Elly Sim

Elly Sim is the founder of Jan & Elly English Language School and is a partner of the Speak Good English Movement. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Child Development & Psychology from University of North Texas in the United States, where she is also a member of the International Reading Association (IRA) and a former committee member for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

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