For those children who are in the early stages of learning to read, one of your top priorities is going to be ensuring they keep up momentum while they’re learning at home. But for many parents, especially if they learnt to read differently when they were at school themselves, phonics is completely new – and can be a bit intimidating. Here are some ideas and resources to share with parents to build their confidence, so they can support their children’s phonics progress – and hopefully have some fun at the same time!
1. Encourage them to read to their child – every day!
It’s a given that reading to children is the best way to encourage them to love books and to expand their vocabulary beyond everyday spoken language. So even if they have just ten minutes to spare, this remains the number one piece of advice you can give parents when it comes to supporting their child’s reading development!
2. Make phonics accessible by explaining key terms
Phonemes, graphemes, split digraphs… You’re probably finding that parents are faced with lots of new terms, so helping them to understand what phonics is and how it works is vital to get them on board with helping their child learn how to read. Here’s a fun animation to help them get to grips with the basics.
3. Help them learn how to say the sounds correctly
There are lots of helpful resources that you can share with parents to help them pronounce the sounds correctly, including this video and audio guide. Make sure they get off to a good start by explaining the two simple but essential golden rules:
- It’s important not to add an ‘uh’ at the end of the consonant sound – for example, the sound is /m/ not /m-uh/).
- Don’t make sounds too long – for example, the letter ‘m’ has a short /m/ sound, not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound.
4. Talk to them about talking
This is another easy way to show parents that they can support their children’s reading development by continuing to do what they already do every day! By talking regularly about day-to-day life, and what they’re reading together, they’re helping their children with hearing and pronouncing speech sounds, as well as developing their vocabulary. Parents could also point to signs or words when they’re out and about, or listen and talk about the sounds they can hear.
5. Repetition, repetition, repetition!
Practice makes perfect. Support parents with getting their children to read the sounds automatically – and quickly – so that they’re ready to move on to sound blending. They could make (or buy) small flashcards with the speech sounds on them and ask their child to turn over the cards one at a time and say the sound clearly, with increasing speed. This can easily be turned into a fast-paced game with a stopwatch, with the parent timing whether the child can beat their record with no mistakes. It doubles up as a great method for learning and practising tricky words.
There are some great flashcards and kits available, specially designed with parents in mind, that include lots of practical advice.
6. Make the most of the extra support for parents included in books
Many books, including lots of the ones available in Oxford Owl’s eBook libraries, include questions, often on their inside covers, that parents can use as prompts. There are questions to ask before, during and after reading to develop children’s understanding of the words they read – a useful tool to help parents make sure their child has done more than purely decode the words.
7. Advise them how to help if their child gets stuck
Parents may appreciate the reassurance that there are lots of ways they can help if their child gets stuck reading a decodable word. Offering tips like saying the sounds quickly, and repeating them until the child can hear the word, can help. Explain why they should avoid encouraging their child to use pictures to guess words: they’ll need to be able to decode the word independently of the picture at some point. And remind them that if they’re stuck on a word that isn’t decodable, it’s ok to tell their child the word to avoid losing the flow of the story. They can get more pointers to help them put reading with phonics into practice in this video.
8. Remind them that enjoyment is key to reading success!
We know that with encouragement and praise, children will learn much faster. You don’t want children, or their parents, to feel under pressure to read. If their child doesn’t feel like reading a story, parents could try a comic, or even a news article instead. What’s more there are many simple phonics word games that will help to make phonics fun. Get lots of ideas for games to share with parents here.
Helpful links to share with parents:
Want more tips to support parents with home learning? Read 8 top tips to help parents support their children with comprehension.