Spelling, including invented spelling, is an excellent way to instruct and reinforce letter-sound knowledge and phoneme awareness and to establish secure orthographic representations (sight words).  Teachers must provide corrective feedback to ensure the learning of accurate spelling in order to help establish those words in long-term memory for reading.
Teach letter names before teaching the sounds of the letters.  It is easier for students to learn the sounds for those letters that contain their sound in the initial position in their names (b,d,j,k,p,t,v,z), followed by those letters whose sounds are embedded within the letter’s name (f,l,m,n,r,s,x), leaving for last those letters whose sounds are not found in the letter’s name (h, w, y).

Students must also become familiar with digraphs, blends and diphthongs.  Digraphs are two-letter combinations that represent a single phoneme.  Blends are common consonant patterns of two and sometimes three letters that preserve the typical letter-sound relationships. Diphthongs are vowel combinations that when pronounced, produce a continuous vocal output in which the mouth, lips, and/or tongue position change midway through the pronunciation.


To understand the big picture, children must understand the alphabetic principle—how our English system of writing works. The alphabetic principle is simply that visual symbols (letters) represent speech sounds (phonemes). To write the spoken word “dog,” you use alphabetic symbols to represent the speech sounds. We can combine and recombine letter symbols to form words. As odd as it may sound, children can learn letters and even letter sounds in very rote ways without understanding the alphabetic system. When children do not understand the alphabetic principle, they may do the following:
Our field has long had a problem with teachers devoting an inadequate amount of time to phonics instruction. Although some children will pick up word reading with little instructional effort, many require considerable instruction to master the complex task of looking at a series of lines and curves to ascertain the spoken word they represent. In languages in which there is a relatively simple relationship between letters and sounds, such as Finnish and Spanish, by the middle of first grade, children are able to read real words and pseudo-words in the language accurately almost 100 percent of the time.* In languages in which the relationships are somewhat more complex, such as Danish and French, children are about 70 percent accurate by that time point. In English, in which the relationship between letters and sounds is extremely complex, children are about 40 percent accurate at that point.2 Put another way, English word reading requires a lot more effort to teach and learn than many other languages.
The executive summary states, "The evidence is clear ... that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read. Findings from the research evidence indicate that all students learn best when teachers adopt an integrated approach to reading that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension." The Inquiry Committee also states that the apparent dichotomy between phonics and the whole-Language approach to teaching "is false". However, it goes on to say "It was clear, however, that systematic phonics instruction is critical if children are to be taught to read well, whether or not they experience reading difficulties."[44]

Also, I love that the experience of opening up the kit and progressing is fun for him. He calls it “my reading” and looks forward to pulling out the red box in the evenings after bath. He's working hard for the stickers and has only once swiped a few before they were earned. We are using this kit in a completely low-pressure environment, to get ahead – but I can imagine the ease of use and short, bite sized lessons would be great for a child who is catching up, as well – to build confidence.
It can be a bit of a puzzle to work out how best to support your child through the early stages of reading, especially since teaching methods may have changed quite a bit since you were at school! Read on if you’d like to find out what to expect as your child builds their reading skills, how to help them – and how you can both have fun while you do so!
^ "National Reading Panel (NRP) – Publications and Materials – Reports of the Subgroups". National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: an evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction: Reports of the subgroups (NIH Publication No. 00-4754). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2000. Archived from the original on 2010-06-11.
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The National Research Council re-examined the question of how best to teach reading to children (among other questions in education) and in 1998 published the results in the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children.[21] The National Research Council's findings largely matched those of Adams. They concluded that phonics is a very effective way to teach children to read at the word level, more effective than what is known as the "embedded phonics" approach of whole language (where phonics was taught opportunistically in the context of literature). They found that phonics instruction must be systematic (following a sequence of increasingly challenging phonics patterns) and explicit (teaching students precisely how the patterns worked, e.g., "this is b, it stands for the /b/ sound").[22]
Phonics for Reading is a research validated program that focuses on decoding, encoding (writing), fluency, and comprehension skills usually mastered in grades K to 3. The program uses explicit, teacher-directed instruction to introduce skills and strategies. Participants will learn the science behind the program as well as how to implement the program.
Phonics instruction may be provided systematically or incidentally. The hallmark of a systematic phonics approach or program is that a sequential set of phonics elements is delineated and these elements are taught along a dimension of explicitness depending on the type of phonics method employed. Conversely, with incidental phonics instruction, the teacher does not follow a planned sequence of phonics elements to guide instruction but highlights particular elements opportunistically when they appear in text.

Time4Learning’s reading program includes phonetic-based lessons, helping children to acquire blending skills, to deconstruct sounds, and to approach the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. In addition as a literature-based feature, children are provided vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension and writing components. The strategic combination is a successful tool in giving children the opportunity to explore and identify all facets of reading.


During the late 1990s the whole language approach gained popularity in Portugal, but in a non-explicit form. Emphasis was placed on meaning, reading for pleasure, and developing a critical approach to the texts. Explicit phonemic awareness and explicit training for reading fluency were considered outdated by some teachers' organizations[62]. Poor results in international comparisons led parents and schools to react to this approach and to insist on direct instruction methods. Later, during minister Nuno Crato’s tenure (2011-2015), who is known to be a vocal critic of constructivist approaches and a supporter of cognitive psychology findings, new standards ("metas") were put in place[63]. The ministry convened a team led by a well-known specialist in reading, José Morais[64]. This team introduced an explicit phonics teaching approach, put emphasis on decoding and reading fluency.
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