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What are Phonics?

Many parents of beginning readers have heard about phonics and many have questions:

What does my child's teacher really mean when she talks about phonics? Does my child need to learn phonics to learn to read? Is phonics most effective if taught at a certain age? You'll get answers to these questions and more below. Girl writing on blackboard What is phonics? Phonics is simply the system of relationships between letters and sounds in a language. When your kindergartener learns that the letter B has the sound of /b/ and your second-grader learns that "tion" sounds like /shun/, they are learning phonics. Why is phonics important? Learning phonics will help your children learn to read and spell. Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of letters and letter combinations will help your child decode words as he reads. Knowing phonics will also help your child know which letters to use as he writes words. When is phonics usually taught? Your child will probably learn phonics in kindergarten through second grade. In kindergarten, children usually learn the sounds of the consonant letters (all letters except the vowels a, e, i, o, and u). First- and second-graders typically learn all the sounds of letters, letter combinations, and word parts (such as "ing" and "ed"). They practice reading and spelling words containing those letters and patterns. Second-graders typically review and practice the phonics skills they have learned to make spelling and reading smooth and automatic. Children vary in the amount of phonics instruction they need and when they need it. Some children need very little phonics instruction, while others still benefit from phonics instruction in third grade. Many children with dyslexia benefit from phonics instruction even beyond third grade.

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