Most parents, at one point or another, frets over the education and the development of their children. Many concerned parents research and seek information on the topic of teaching children to read and write. I for one, am glad to see so many parents wanting to get an early start for their children in reading and writing, because studies have shown that developing these abilities early on before entering school provides numerous benefits and advantages later on as the child progresses through school.
More worrisome should be the fact that over one third, 38% to be exact, of all grade 4 students cannot even achieve a basic level of reading ability according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This is an alarming statistic. Will your child become one of the 38% who cannot reach basic reading achievement by grade 4? For most children, this poor ability to read can be easily prevented with early phonemic awareness teaching.
Reading must begin early in the life of a child, whether it is just an alphabet letter, a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or a story. Teaching children how to read must begin early on, and children should be exposed to books, stories, rhymes, and be read to on a daily basis. Children as young as 2 years old can learn to read if you teach them to read with the proper instructions.
As Lida Williams said, almost 100 years ago:
Phonics is not a method of teaching reading, but it is a necessary part of every good, modern method. It is the key to word mastery, and word mastery is one of the first essentials in learning to read. A knowledge of the sounds of letters, and of the effect of the position of the letter upon its sound, is an essential means of mastering the mechanics of reading, and of enabling children to become independent readers.
100 years later, this still holds true. Unfortunately, since the later half of the 20th century, there has been a great debate on what method of teaching is best to teach children how to read: whether phonics or the whole language method is better. The whole language method became the preferred method of the education system - unfortunately. The whole language learning to read method is more of a "word memorization" plan, where a young child is supposed to memorize the "shape" of the word, and say it.
Since then, thousands of studies, have proven phonics and phonemic awareness to be superior in teaching children to read and write, and although many still like to debate this for whatever reasons, I think this debate was settled when the National Reading Panel stated that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness produces better reading results than whole language programs after their research which reviewed and identified 1,962 studies on this subject.
It is important to distinguish the difference between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. Phonological awareness is very broad, and includes phonemic awareness as a sub category. Phonemic awareness is very narrow, and it is only focused on the phonemes, which are the individual sounds of letters. There are no shortage of studies which have repeatedly found, and concluded that teaching phonemic awareness to young children produces exceptional reading and spelling abilities.
The whole language method simply expects a child to "read" when presented reading material, and by memorizing sight words. The phonics method is a bottom up approach where you teach children to read in a logical and sequential order. You first teach children the alphabet letters and the sounds they represent; then you teach children to combine (or blend) various letter sounds together to form words; which is then followed by reading sentences and simple stories. This is a logical progression for children learning to read, where they develop accuracy in decoding words and pronouncing words. This method of teaching also helps the child to spell correctly.
There's no doubt that phonics and phonemic awareness instruction is the superior method to teach children how to read. We have successfully used phonemic awareness instructions to teach our children at age 2 to read words, sentences, paragraphs, and simple story books. If you would like to learn about a simple, step-by-step method to teach your children to read and write, please click right here...