Helping littlies learn letters and sounds

black board with A B C and an Apple, Butterfly and a  Cat
Early years 2-5 years

There are lots of ways to help little ones get ready for reading. You can help your child learn about letters and sounds with the help of ‘phonics’. Find out about phonics and what you can do to help your little one start their reading journey.

How can phonics help?

Phonics is a way of teaching English reading and writing that is about making the connections between letters (and combinations of letters) and the sounds in spoken words.

Phonics begins with simple sounds, for example the sound ‘b’ in ‘bag’ or ‘a’ in ant. Later, children progress to sounds made by combinations of letters, for example ‘sh’ in ‘shop’. Once children can hear and say the sounds the letters make they are ready to blend them to form simple words. If a child hears ‘b-u-s’ as three separate sounds they can blend them to say ‘bus’.

When children can match letters or groups of letters with sounds they are able to read many words.

Phonics is fun!

You don’t have to be an expert to help your little one get ready for reading. Here are some fun things you can try:

  • Read with your child each day. Reading to your child helps them to enjoy stories and develop an interest in reading. It also helps them to understand that reading is about understanding and learning new things – not just about saying words.
  • When talking about letters, use the sound they make as well as their name.
  • Repeat rhymes, sing the alphabet song and listen to the ‘phonics song’ with your little one online.
  • Encourage your child to make letter shapes using their body, playdough, sticks – or anything you have handy. Try starting with the letters in your child’s name – this can help make learning letters more meaningful.
  • Point to letters you see on signs, posters, etc. Name the letter and say the sound it makes. When they are older they will enjoy pointing out the letters that they know to you!
  • Encourage your child to hear and say the sounds in words. Help them to listen for the individual sounds in words, pull them apart and put them together. Try it as you go about your everyday activities, for example ‘Let’s put on your hat. h-a-t. Hat.’
  • Praise and encouragement! Let your little one know you are proud they are learning their letters and praise them for their effort.

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