How Parents Can Help With Phonics Instruction

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Phonics instruction is a teaching method that teaches the relationship between sounds and the letters we use to represent them. Phonics is a long-standing teaching method that is good for teaching children to decode words. Phonics instruction typically begins by teaching children that sounds are represented by specific letters. Children then learn that combinations of letters are grouped together to make more complex groups of sounds to make words.

Phonics skills are important for children to be able to read fluently. Children who master phonics learn to recognize individual sounds and how to blend them together to read words. Many children with learning disabilities in reading may have difficulty with phonics skills. However, they often respond well to phonics instruction.

Benefits of Phonics Instruction

Some reading research suggests that phonics instruction is an effective strategy to use with reading disorders and can be used along with word recognition strategies. Students with dyslexia are more likely to make gains in reading skills when they receive solid instruction in phonics.

As with many types of academic intervention, phonics is most effective when used as early as possible in a child’s education. Direct instruction with phonics using multisensory strategies has also shown promise in remediating learning disabilities in reading. This type of instruction is typically most effective when delivered individually or within small group instruction in a systematic and intensive program.

Guidelines for Instruction

Phonics instruction teaches that there are 44 sounds made by the 26 letters of the English language. The goal of phonics instruction is to teach those sound and symbol relationships to enable children to read and write words. It is recommended that instruction:

  • Be systematic, focusing on a few regular sounds and spelling patterns and progressing through more complex irregular sounds and spellings.
  • Should include a lot of drill and practice (but this can and should be made enjoyable rather than grueling).
  • Should include immediate feedback from teachers when students need correction to keep them from learning errors.
  • Should include a frequent assessment to ensure children are progressing.
  • Should include words at the student’s developmental level.
  • Should use multisensory methods and materials.
  • Should use words students will use in everyday interactions and classroom work and then progress to more unfamiliar or complex material as the child is ready for it.
  • Should include a frequent review of previously learned material so children will retain skills.

Activities to Develop Phonics Skills

There are many activities you can do at home to help children develop phonics skills:

  • Play a game with your child where you take turns coming up with words that begin with the same sound. It is helpful to start with consonants. (sat, sing, silly) Spend time on each letter separately.
  • Create flashcards with words that begin with the same sounds.
  • Make your own multisensory materials and have your child write the words you came up with that start with the same sounds.
  • Practice nursery rhymes to develop your child’s awareness of how words can sound the same. Rhyming books are also helpful to teach and reinforce this skill. Read to your child while pointing to the rhyming words. Have your child write the rhyming words using multisensory materials.
  • After your child is comfortable with beginning consonants, practice words with long vowels. Again, spend some time with vowels individually. Have a “long A week” where you and your child watch for long A words in books and in conversation.
  • Work on long and short vowel flashcards.
  • Work on consonant-vowel-consonant flashcards.

As always, keep your practice at home fun and enjoyable. Remember that reading is difficult for a child with learning disabilities, and the more you can do to make it fun, the better. If you find that your child is having difficulty with some of your activities, perhaps they are not ready, and you may want to go back to something they have learned well to increase their confidence.

Working With the Teacher

Share any concerns you have with your child's teacher. Also, be sure to ask their teacher if they have specific suggestions on how you should work with your child. Your child will learn more effectively if what you do at home is consistent with the activities they are doing in school.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Denton CA, Al Otaiba S. Teaching Word Identification to Students with Reading Difficulties and Disabilities. Focus Except Child. 2011;2011:254245149.

  2. Snowling MJ. Early identification and interventions for dyslexia: a contemporary view. J Res Spec Educ Needs. 2013;13(1):7-14. doi:10.1111/j.1471-3802.2012.01262.x

  3. Broadbent HJ, White H, Mareschal D, Kirkham NZ. Incidental learning in a multisensory environment across childhood. Dev Sci. 2018;21(2):e12554. doi:10.1111/desc.12554

  4. Children's Literacy Initiative. Phonics.

  5. Schlesinger NW, Gray S. The impact of multisensory instruction on learning letter names and sounds, word reading, and spelling. Ann Dyslexia. 2017;67(3):219-258. doi:10.1007/s11881-017-0140-z

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.