When someone is building a house, they must secure a strong foundation in order for the structure to stand over time. This can be a metaphor for how children learn to read. They need to develop certain skills and build a strong foundation to be able to understand concepts of print, grow phonological awareness, sound out unknown words, build fluency, and increase vocabulary. All of these skills need to work together to ensure success.
Developing foundational skills is essential for all students, including multilingual/English learners, as well as struggling readers who may be lacking some of the skills needed to progress with their literacy. The most crucial years to develop these skills are between infancy and third grade. As children get older, the texts will have higher word counts and get more intricate and complicated. They will have to develop more analytical and comprehension skills that will be affected if they can’t read the words in the first place. Thus, mastering phonics skills is essential for all readers.
Phonics is an important element of foundational skills, as it is the practice of using letter sounds to read and write words. Students learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet, how those letters and sounds are related, and how groups of letters and syllables create words.
Letters should be introduced to children at a very young age. Babies often say “dada,” “mama,” or “baba” as some of their first sounds. They are hearing the sounds and practicing pronouncing them. But children who speak another language often learn English sounds later in life. To practice phonics skills, they can find similarities between letter sounds in their native language and English, which will help them make connections to the phonemes. Young children can practice saying the letters by singing “The Alphabet Song” and learning how to spell and write the letters in their own name. However, certain words that don’t follow phonics patterns are also necessary for students to learn. These words can be placed on notecards and posted to create a Word Wall for students to reference as they’re learning.
Programs like Vista’s Discover Phonics can help lay a strong foundation for successful reading as children grow up.
By Angela Padron