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Phonics: Encouraging Literacy in the Home

There is a heated debate over which is better – learning to read using “whole words” or “phonics”. A long time ago, I touched on some of the pros and cons for each method (see: Learning to read – whole words versus phonics) and the route we chose to go with was a combination of both. We began our early reading journey with “whole words” and supplemented with phonics – well, G2 more so than G1. I think G1’s first real exposure to phonics was when he started school.

Although G1’s reading level is high, I’ve noticed that his spelling lags behind. Is this because he started late on phonics? Who knows. Regardless, we’ve been focussing a little more on phonics at home and here are some tips shared with us by our school…

Encouraging Literacy: Develop Listening Skills

These days, our surrounding environment is getting noisier and noisier. There is almost always a constant din in the background from air-conditioners, fans, car engines, electronics. Studies have shown that children raised in noisy environments had lower intelligence. Merzenich suspected that too much noise pollution during the critical period could lead to developmental problems and he tested this hypothesis with a group of baby rats. He found that pulses of white noise occurring during their critical period affected the proper development of their neural cortices. – Merzenich on Learning Difficulties

Tuning into Sounds – Auditory Discrimination

To help your child develop auditory discrimination, you can play listening games like:

Learn about rhymes and rhythm with these activities:

Learn about alliterations (words that have the same beginning sound) with these activities:

  • I spy
  • what sound do these words begin with? e.g. ball, bat, bear, box, bee
  • tongue twisters – e.g. “she sold seashells by the seashore”
  • say the beginning sound of each item going into the trolley during a shopping trip

Learn about voice sounds, oral blending and segmenting with these activities:

Introducing Phonics

Encouraging Literacy: High frequency / Tricky words

There are some 300 words that fall under this category and will have to be learned as “whole words”:

Phonic Books

What else can you do?

  • Make sure your child sees you reading and writing (with a pen!).
  • Practice segmenting and blending words in front of your child. For example, pretend you can’t read the word and practice sounding out the letters.
  • Read to your child. Show you like the book. Bring stories to life by using loud/soft/scary voices – let yourself go!
  • Spread books around your house for your child to dip into.
  • Let your child choose what they would like to read – books, comics, catalogues.
  • Play audiobooks!
  • Read favourite books over and over again. Enjoy!

Encouraging Literacy: Programs you can use

Jolly Phonics is also available on iTunes:

Phonics - Encouraging Literacy


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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