Teaching children to read by teaching phonics activities is a lot like doing the math, where you have to know what the numbers are, how to count, and you need to learn to add and subtract before learning to multiply and divide. Teaching phonics to children is no different where you follow a step by step approach by first teaching the child the alphabet letters and phonics sounds, and then teaching them the combination of different letters to create different words, and using words to form sentences. It is a very logical and sequential buildup of phonics knowledge and reading ability.
Before a child can learn to read, he or she must first learn the alphabet letters and know the sounds represented by the letters. It’s usually easier to teach some consonants and short vowels first before moving on to more complicated things such as consonant digraphs (2 consonants formed to produce one sound, such as “ch” or “ph”) and long vowels. As you can see, teaching children to read by the phonics method helps them develop phonemic awareness, and it is also a very logical and straightforward approach.
Start off by teaching your child the phonics sounds. You can choose to teach your child in alphabetic order going from A to Z, or you can teach several commonly used consonant sounds and vowels, and go from there. For example, you may start teaching your child /a/, /c/, and /t/ (slashes denote sound of the letters). Once your child has learned to quickly recognize these letters and properly sound out their sounds, you can then teach them to blend /c/, /a/, /t/ to make the words “cat”, or “tac”, or “at”.
As you introduce more letters and phonics sounds in your lesson plans, you can generate more words, and slowly introduce short, simple sentences to your reading lessons. Depending on the age of your child, I would suggest keeping the phonics lessons relatively short – around 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes, just 3 to 5 minutes for a short lesson is plenty, and you can easily teach these short phonics lessons 2 or 3 times each day for a total of 10 to 15 minutes. Young children tend to be forgetful, so repetition is very important.
You don’t want to make the lessons too long and boring, that the child begins to feel like doing a “chore” when learning to read. So keep it short, fun, and interesting. By keeping the phonics lessons short, you also avoid overwhelming the child with too much information and always remember to make sure your child has mastered one lesson before moving on to new material. Confusion and uncertainty will only make their learning effort difficult and frustrating – so review often, move on to new material only after they’ve mastered the current lessons.
So when can you start teaching phonics sounds and lessons to children? Not everyone will agree with me on this, but I believe that if your child can speak, then your child can learn to read. Of course, every child is different and unique, and some children will be more receptive to learning reading than others. One thing for certain, is that the earlier a child learns to read, the better.
There is someone I know that has taught their 2-year-old daughter to read through teaching phonics sounds and lessons, and helping her develop phonemic awareness. If you haven’t seen the video yet, sign up for my emails and you’ll get a link to it. It has their daughter reading randomly created sentences. They simply started teaching phonics sounds to her by spending 5 to 10 minutes each day, spread between 2 to 3 separate lessons, and slowly introduced new letters and reading the material. 5 to 10 minutes each day can really add up to a lot of practice.