Phonics and Reading for Toddlers

What is Phonics?

Before we can discuss why it is important for toddlers to learn about phonics, we need to learn what exactly phonics is. Phonics is understanding that audios and also letters have a collaboration; also known as it is the link in between what we say as well as what we can read and create. Phonics is the initial strategy that young readers will certainly need to sound out words.

In preschool or nursery school, children start to develop their paying attention abilities so that they can listen to the different sounds that words make, laying the structure to discover the names of things and how they sound.

The next phase occurs in primary school, where kids find out the letters of the alphabet in an established order, and the sound of each letter. As soon as they learn this, kids can start to sound out and read simple, basic words.

For example, kids find out that the letter C has the sound of a “c” as in “cat” and also will then discover how to blend the following letters and their sounds, as in “c-a-t”, to articulate the word.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. After working with short and simple words and sounds, your kids’ confidence will grow. They’ll soon be able to make the connection of letter sounds to more complex words.  They’ll actually gain a love for reading without them even realizing it. Below is a list of “buzzwords” to help you on your way to teach your little ones to read.

Phonics: using the sound made by a letter and groups of letters to read words.

Decoding: using the knowledge of phonics to sound out and read words.

Grapheme: a written single letter or group of letters, like “s”, “a”, or “she”.

Diagraph: two letters that make one sound together, for example, “sh”.

Phoneme: the sound a letter or group of letters makes. An example is the word “mat”, which has 3 phonemes, “m”, “a”, and “t”.

Sounding Out: using your phonic knowledge to help you say the sounds within a word; e.g., “r-e-d”, pronouncing each phoneme.

Blending: reading the sounds in the word altogether to read the whole word; e.g., “r-e-d, red” or “m-o-m, mom”.

High-Frequency Words: also known as “common exception words”, we use these common words often but aren’t always decodable using phonics. Examples of high-frequency words are, “the”, “one”, and “where”; children are taught to recognize these words on sight.

In school, teachers give their children plenty of time and practice when working with phonics. Working with phonics in the classroom, children will read short, easy books, containing a particular letter sound or words they are working on, allowing them to build knowledge and confidence towards learning phonics.

As parents, however, it can be a bit of a challenge trying to work out the best ways to support your kids in their early stages of learning to read, especially since teaching methods are always changing, and are sure to have changed since we were in school!

Learning with phonics does not have to be within the confines of a classroom. As a teacher, I have come up with several ways to work on phonics with your child from the comfort of your own home. Some of those ways are:

  • Form a partnership with the teacher- Ask your child’s teacher how you can highlight reading and phonics inside the home and feel free to express any concerns you may have.
  • Listen to your child read- If you notice when reading with your child that they stumble on a word, encourage them to use phonics to sound it out. If they are still unsure after sounding the word out, don’t be discouraged, provide the word and some encouragement to your child to get the next one right!
  • Boost comprehension- When reading with your child, take breaks from the story to ask questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Can you make up a different ending to the story?”
  • Reread familiar books- If you notice your child wants to reread their favorite book, that’s okay! In fact, it’s beneficial as it shows a desire to read, builds fluency, and builds confidence in your child as they can demonstrate reading on their own with little to no assistance.
  • Read aloud- When choosing a book to read, choose a book that excites your child and their interests, and if you can, use different voices for each character!
  • Spread the joy of reading- Keeping plenty of books and/or magazines around the home will show your child how valuable reading is while cultivating a lifelong love of reading.

Once your child has learned to read words with the most common letter-sound combinations, they will move on to learn other, harder combinations. With daily practice, your child will be well on their way to reading pretty much any familiar word in the English language!

Teaching children is not a simple task, and if after reading these steps you’re left feeling a little overwhelmed, no need to worry, I have a solution for that too! Click the link below to see how Sarah Shepard, a fellow teacher who has taught over 35,000 children (and counting) how to read with her home program called Reading Head Start!