What is phonics?

Think about beginning readers as code-breakers! Phonics is one way to teach children in the early primary years of school to read by 'decoding' words. Children are taught how to:

  • recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes
  • identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as sh or oo
  • blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.

Children can then use this knowledge to decode new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.

Why phonics?

While phonics is just one part of learning to read, research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.

When children learn the skills to tackle new words, they can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently – and to read for enjoyment.

If you would like to find out more about phonics and how you can support your child’s reading, select Literacy at home or visit your state or territory education department.