What are the top criticisms of phonics-based programs?
- It slows down reading when the child is sounding out each individual phoneme.
- It lacks a focus on comprehension.
- It is initially abstract and not as fun as reading with meaning.
To help your baby learn phonics skills without the above problems:
- Teach your baby to read numerous individual words that follow regular phonetic patterns. Do NOT only use three letter words in a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern. Babies should not overlearn one pattern before going to the next pattern. Babies who receive a wide variety of words would be better at figuring out a new pattern than babies who are only exposed to one pattern of words.
In the DVDs, we have a wide variety of long and short words that include many different patterns. Teaching your baby or toddler to read many words could help your baby learn phonics because your child will have more individual words with more opportunities to figure out the patterns.
- Use many of the ideas from the previous milestones to teach your child new words. Remember, not only is it theoretically possible that babies could learn written language similar to how they learn spoken language1 – research supports it2,3,4. Please read many of the posts on this website, YouTube, or other infant reading websites where parents talk about their babies learning phonics without being explicitly taught.
- Write out rhyming words frequently – say the first few, then ask your baby or toddler to say the others. For example, write out “hat”, “cat”, “sat”, and “bat”, then ask your child to say “mat” and “pat”.
- Focus on two types of phonics learning with babies and toddlers: implicit or analytical phonics and embedded phonics. For preschoolers, add some explicit phonics.
Implicit or analytical phonics involves the child analyzing whole words to detect patterns in spelling or sounds. To use analytical phonics do activities similar to #3 above and #8 below where you show your child many words that start or end with the same letter(s), or that rhyme and are spelled the same in the middle. Write out ‘bat’, ‘bubble’, ‘bear’, ‘bottle’, ‘baby’, and ‘book’, then ask your child to read ‘bib’ and ‘bag’. Note: ‘bib’ is in the YBCR program, but ‘bag’ is not.
Do the same with words that end with ‘ing’ by writing out ‘smiling’, ‘going’, ‘sharing’, ‘ring’, ‘bring’, ‘jumping’, and ‘wing’, then see if your child recognizes ‘stopping’ or ‘ding’ Neither of these words (‘stopping’ or ‘ding’) is a YBCR word. You could also write out ‘seen’ and ‘green’, then see if your child can read ‘teen’.
Note: This example illustrates why learning to read and spell in English using phonics can be complicated because if you select the word ‘been’ it is pronounced with a short ‘e’ sound instead of a long ‘e’ sound and if you write out words that rhyme with ‘seen’ and ‘green’, many are spelled with an ‘ea’ in the middle (e.g., ‘clean’, ‘mean’, or ‘bean’).
Embedded phonics means teaching the letter-sound relationships when you are reading with your child and you notice that she needs help with a particular part of phonics. In other words, if you are reading a book with your child and the word ‘bed’ is not pronounced properly, then teach the ‘b’ sound, the ‘e’ sound and the ‘d’ sound in the word ‘bed.’ You could primarily use analytical phonics while doing the teaching, but you only do it as it is needed based on your child’s abilities and needs. This one-on-one teaching is great because your main focus is on enjoying the books with your child, but you teach phonics as needed.
If your child is age 3 or older, you may need to introduce some explicit phonics where you write and sound out all of phonemes. Why should you NOT focus on explicit phonics with babies and toddlers?
- It may slow the speed of initial reading (instead of immediately recognizing the word and understanding what it means, the child sounds out individual letter sounds), [I will talk more about this on the “fast reading” milestone.]
- It doesn’t work for about half of the words in children’s literature.
- It is likely not as interesting because the sounds of the phonemes are the focus instead of the word’s meaning. Developing a love of reading is one of the most important goals, and that is hard to achieve without focusing on what the words mean.
- It is abstract.
- It is complicated.
- It is not necessary for many babies and toddlers.
- Use Your CHILD Can Read!. The DVDs are designed to teach phonics by using primarily analytical phonics as well as by teaching more than a thousand new words. We have many phonics sections in the DVDs. Ideally, parents would frequently watch the DVDs with their children, then do some of the same activities that are in the DVDs.
- Use Your Child Can Read! Sliding Phonics Cards that have two sliding tabs. We designed the cards to use analytical phonics. The child can form words from rhyming words, then match a photo that goes with the words. The background images on the cards match those in the DVDs. We now offer the Sliding Phonics Cards to be purchased separately at www.YourBabyCanRead.com since many people have the DVDs, but not the cards.
- Write out nonsense words and read them with your child. Encourage your child to make up a word, then you can write it out. Have this gradually lead to you writing two nonsense words and see if your child can point to the correct one. For example, you could write out “nana nana” and “goo” and see if your baby or toddler knows which one says “nana nana.” These nonsense word games can be lots of fun and help your child learn phonics. Try to do some familiar letter combinations and some where your child may need help.
- Look for books at the library that have many rhyming words in them. “Hop on Pop” and other Dr. Seuss books are good examples.
- Use whiteboards, chalkboards, sidewalks, laptops, sand, and many other surfaces to write words that start with the same letters, end with the same letters, or have the same letters or sounds in the middle.
- Make up phonics games to play while riding in the car, on walks, or wherever you are spending time with your child. Again, read complete words and not breaking them into individual parts and sounds for most of these games.
1 Massaro, D.W. (2012). Acquiring Literacy Naturally. American Scientist, 100, 324-333.
2 Söderbergh, R. (1986). Acquisition of Spoken and Written Language in Early Childhood. Advances in Psychology, 39, 629-666.
3 Cohen, R. & Söderbergh, R. (1999). Apprendre a lire avant de savoir parler, Albin Michel Éducation. Paris, France.
4 Titzer, R. (1998, April). Infants’ and Toddlers’ Abilities to Visually Discriminate Written Words. Presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Atlanta, Georgia.