10 ways to help your child with phonics

Easy tips for revving up this essential reading skill.

By Bruce Johnson

1. Continue with the read-aloud. Include alphabet books. Some alphabet books tell a story or share information. Look for these.

2. Sing the alphabet often. Be careful that “l-m-n-o” doesn’t come too quickly and sound like one letter. It is a group of letters with four distinct sounds; slow down at this part, maybe even pause after the letter n, and then continue with saying the alphabet slowly and clearly.

3. Point to alphabet letters and say their names. Mix the letters and say their names. 4. Work on names. Teach your child to spell his or her name. Write the name on a piece of paper. Ask your child to trace over it and then copy. Warning: this may become a bit tricky with names that do not follow conventional sound–symbol relationships. Point out the irregularities.

5. Make letters in fun ways with paint, play clay, sticks, sugar, or sand.

6. Look for letters wherever you go. Examples: signs, cereal boxes, book covers.

7. Look at letters, say the letter name, say the letter sound, then say a word that begins with that sound.

8. Make flash cards. Play letter games such as Memory or Go Fish with letters or sounds, and when you find a match say a word that begins with that matched sound. Play Tic-Tac-Toe using letters other than X and O.

9. Start with simple words, like bat. Write the word on a piece of paper, point to the first letter, and ask for the sound. Continue with each subsequent letter.

10. Go on a letter hunt. Write a letter on top of a sheet of paper, like b. Look for all of the words of objects around the house that begin with that letter or sound. Draw pictures or write words.

Excerpted from Involving Parents in Their Children's Reading Development: A Guide for Teachers

Educator and reading specialist Bruce Johnson is the author of Involving Parents in Their Children’s Reading Development: A Guide for Teachers.