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Children aged between 3 and 5 are learning to read in their own language. At the same time, your children are learning to understand and speak English with songs, stories and games. They are often starting to recognise the sounds that letters make in English and beginning to read simple individual words. There are ways you can help your children do this.

What is phonics?

Many English courses for young children use phonics to help children to learn to read. Phonics teaches the relationship between letters and the sounds that they make. It helps the children to work out new words as they read them. For example, the word cat has three letters (c, a and t). If the child knows the sound for each of the letters c, a and t, they can put them together to read the word cat.

The first letter

Try and encourage your child to listen carefully for letter sounds. When you are playing a game in English, you can stop and ask your child, What does ‘duck’ begin with? And your child can sound out the ‘d’ sound. For some words like sun, cat, dog, ten etc. children can pick out all of the sounds.

Starting to read

When your child starts to read words they will use their knowledge of phonics to help them sound words out. But there are also many combinations of letters that make dioperent sounds, e.g. ea, th, aw. Children will learn these later. There are some common words that they will have to try and remember e.g. blue, water etc. They are usually taught these words using the ‘Look and say’ method. They are shown a picture of the word and its written form and they are taught to recognize the word and link it to the meaning.

The alphabet

Children like learning alphabet songs, and knowing alphabetical order is an important skill to learn. So your children may learn the name of a letter at the same time as the sound that the letter makes. Sometimes the names of the letters (A, E and I especially) sound very dioperent to its sound. This song is a good one to play for the children. It’s in US English. Note that in US English, the last letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zee”, and in UK English it is pronounced “zed”.
The Everybody Up alphabet song