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Phonics Instruction at an Early Age

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I have a six-year-old son who will be entering the first grade in the fall. He is having a real struggle with blending words. He knows the sounds of the letters but gets very frustrated with blending. How do you feel about games such as Hooked on Phonics or similar games that relate to this subject? He is presently taking a summer school class in reading.

A: Most schools do not expect children to be fluent readers when they enter first grade. They also recognize that it takes considerable practice for young readers to learn how to blend sounds together to read words. Since your son already knows the individual sounds, he probably just needs additional practice in blending them together.

While your son is still in the summer reading program, take advantage of the teacher's expertise to find out if one of the commercial phonics programs would be helpful for him. Check out Hooked on Phonics. This program helps children acquire phonics skills; however, parental guidance is required.

Remember, reading should be an enjoyable activity for beginning readers. Don't turn it into a series of boring, repetitious drills that will turn your son away from reading. Keep the time devoted to improving your son's skills short, and stop whenever he becomes restless. Here are some suggestions to improve your son's blending skills:

  1. Read beginning readers like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham that have lots of rhyming words and repetition to your child. Pause while reading and give your son the opportunity to sound out some of the rhyming words.
  2. Buy some magnetic letters that your son can use to form rhyming words. Give him sound patterns such as _at, _ill, and _et, and have him place different consonants in front of them to make words. This activity can also be done on a blackboard or with paper and pencil.
  3. Throughout the day, play impromptu word games with your child. For example, when you see a fan ask him to think of words that will rhyme with fan. If he is unable to give a response, give him a couple of choices (pan, pat) and have him tell you which one of the two words actually rhymes with fan.

    More on: Expert Advice

    Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

    Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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