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Why every child should learn phonics by Sophie Griffiths

Updated: Mar 5

A child reading their book on the sofa

The evidence is clear: over the last 50 years an ever growing body of research points to the cold, hard fact that phonics is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ skill up your sleeve. It is essential. Phonics gives all children the skills needed to read and spell English confidently and independently, providing them with a strong reading foundation that will last them a life-time. Not convinced? Read on to learn more about the benefits of phonics.



Let’s explain what phonics is to start with. Phonics is when you match the sounds of spoken English with an individual letter or group of letters. For example, the letter A has the sound /a/ as in the start of the word ‘apple’. The group of letters AI make the long sound /ai/ as in the word ‘rain’. Teaching phonics has been proven as the best way for all children to learn to read and write English, especially younger children. Much research has been done¹ that agrees phonemic awareness is essential for reading fluency, comprehension and spelling - as children understand the letter to sound connections, they start to read and write more accurately and confidently. In many cases, this leads to your child having a reading age beyond their years.



The evidence says that phonics is most effective when taught in a structured and systematic way. This means the teaching follows a logical order, from the simplest to the most complex sounds² (not the alphabetic order), and that children are given clear guidance and feedback on how to apply their phonics skills to reading and spelling. As with all learning, the best results come when the child is having fun and the learning is engaging, interactive and fun, using a variety of activities and materials to suit different learning styles and preferences.



Phonics is now included as part of the UK curriculum for English because it is seen as the most effective way to teach children how to read and write English. But it was not always this way; before 1998, whole-word and whole-language approaches were more popular, but they were criticised for being inefficient and confusing. Although phonics has been around and used by those teachers who believed in its effectiveness, only in 2012 was it fully adopted and the British government made it mandatory for all schools to teach phonics. The government also provided a list of approved phonics teaching programmes, such as Pearson’s Bug Club, that schools could choose from, based on their quality and suitability.



If you want to learn more about phonics, you can check out these resources:

If you are looking for an online phonics programme that can help your child improve their reading age, The Phonics School teaches children how to read, write and speak better English using the proven method of phonics and a government approved phonics programme. Our teachers are qualified in the UK with extensive experience of teaching the British curriculum for English - both in the classroom and online.

Click here for a free assessment class.


Download a PDF showing the order sounds are taught

Phonics Sounds Mat Phase 2 to 5
Download PDF • 1.10MB

1 Ofsted Report November 2010: Reading by Six - How the best UK schools do it



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