Should your child learn phonics?

For most children, learning to read is easier and faster
when phonics are taught, assuming that phonics is taught
by a good teacher.  (Any subject is fun to learn with a
good teacher, but a bad teacher sometimes does more
harm than good.)

Phonics is the basis of our written language, as opposed
to the symbolic writing used in Mandarin Chinese, for

In some cases, however, a child's brain is simply not
wired for phonics.  In that case, alternative strategies
need to be used.  

Try the following:

1.  Read to your child constantly, with the child looking at
the book with you.  Point to the words as you read, so
the words become visually familiar.

2.  Talk to your child about how to figure out what a
word might mean by considering the meaning of a
sentence or a story as a whole.

3.  Write down what your child dictates, and have him
read his own words.

4.   Use flash cards to teach words by sight.

5.  Use Glass Analysis-type flash cards so that your child
recognizes common letter patterns.  You can easily make
your own cards.  Make sets of flash cards for simple
letter patterns that appear in your child's reading
selections.   You can have twenty or more words for one
letter pattern.  Examples:

"an"                      "ar"                "ill"                "ark"

ran                        car                fill                   ark
can                        bar               still                  bark
Dan                       far                stillness          dark
fan                        farmer          mill                  park
Fanta                    par               miller               barking
fantastic               party            will                  parking
ant                        jar                willing             darker
car                willingness
cart               silly
cartoon         silliness
market          Billy
(I've added this last word in all seriousness.  Our
memories are powerfully triggered when something
makes us laugh or surprises us.  Seeing that you have
made a flash card with the word "fart" on it will do both
for your child!  And a laugh won't hurt your relationship
with your child, will it?  It will make your child more
willing to work with you.  And you will achieve your
primary goal:  your child will remember the "ar" letter
pattern!  You might want to take a few extra moments at
this teachable time to mention that this word is seldom
appropriate to use in the company of others.)              

For an older child, who is probably embarrassed and
unhappy about working at a beginning level, you might
use "Kill Bill," or any other words you can find in popular
culture.  You can also use these words to start a
discussion with your child about the good and bad effects
of popular culture.

5.  Talk to your child.  Talk about anything, everything,
all the time.  Words are tools for success and happiness
in both our personal and public lives.  Even if your child
never becomes a good reader, he might become a great
speaker!  And most important, he will become a great
human being if he receives love, understanding and
guidance from his family.

6.  Discuss as many ideas as possible with your child.  
Just because she can't read, it doesn't mean that she
shouldn't be learning to think as well as or better than
other children her age.  Some geniuses are dyslexic and
never learn to read well, but they nevertheless attain
prominence in their fields.
Should Your Child Learn Phonics?
Copyright © 2005 Maura Larkins'
San Diego Education Report.  All
Rights Reserved.
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