Sunday, 23 November 2014

How can I support my child's literacy development using phonics and music?

In my last post, I talked about why I feel early literacy is so important and how we can support our child's development through story-time and imaginative play. 

In this post, I continue the theme by discussing the importance of phonics and music in early literacy.


You will definitely have heard of phonics as it has long been one of the buzzwords in Early Years, but what exactly is phonics and why is it so important?

What is phonics?

Phonics is about learning sounds rather than letter names. This makes it easier to sound out letters and then blend them together to read a word. Learning that a series of letters make up a word is not an easy concept for little minds to grasp and it has been proven that phonics is much more effective when learning to read than the more old-fashioned wrote learning methods.

While the various phonics programmes all have slightly different ways of delivering phonics, they all have some main components:
  • Becoming familiar with sounds - most programmes will start with the most common sounds, such as 's' or 'a', moving through to more complex sounds such as 'ng'. Many programmes have an action that goes with each sounds and often a song. These are great ways to help your little one remember the sound and you can introduce the action or song early on, making phonics fun!
  • Recognising initial sounds - ask your child if they can think of words that start with a
    We made a sun to practise the sound 's'.
    certain sound, for example 's' sun. This is a first step in becoming aware that a group of sounds make up a word and you can introduce this concept using lots of fun games!
  • Becoming familiar with the letter - the next step is to associate the letter with the sound. See if they can recognize the letter by naming it with the correct sound. Once they are able to do this, they can start to write the letter which can be done in lots of fun and creative ways.
  • Recognizing end sounds - once your child is able to pick out end sounds as well then they are almost ready to start blending sounds to make words!
  • First words - try giving your little one 'consonant-vowel-consonant' (CVC) words such as 'cat' or 'pen' to try and read. This ability to sound out all the sounds and blend them together is key for early reading. While English can be a difficult language to read due to its large amount of non-phonetic spellings, this ability to decode a word will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

What can I do?

We played tennis to reinforce the sound 't'!
It can be quite easy and very rewarding for you to support your child's literacy development by helping them learn their sounds. If they are at nursery or school you could find out what sound they are learning about and reinforce it at home by playing games and doing fun activities. There are a plethora of interesting new ways to learn sounds. Some ideas to get you started are:
    • A treasure hunt to find items with the same initial sound
    • Creating art work that starts with a certain sound
    • Having a tray full of objects or sensory play with items with the same initial sound
    • Sorting objects by initial sound
    • Sing the song or practice the action associated with it (check with your child's nursery or school to make sure you follow what they are teaching)


    I am a huge fan of introducing babies to music. Children can get so much out of music and
    movement activities, as well as music being known to enhance your mood, attention span and learning capabilities. Music also has an important role to play in early literacy and here are some reasons why:
    • Music can help develop listening skills - when young children are listening to music they develop their ability to focus on different sounds, patterns, rhymes and the structure of language. Music gives them a chance to develop these skills in a fun, informal way!
    • Music builds a sense of rhythm - by building their sense of rhythm, children are more aware of the prosody of language - the patterns, intonation, stress and syllables we use. They will look for familiar rhythms and melodies when listening to music which is similar to identifying words with familiar sounds in reading.
    • Songs can tell a story - as well as just hearing language spoken by others or a story in a book, music is another medium where language can be explored. Songs not only practice skills such as rhyming and alliteration but they can also tell a story. 
    • Repetition - the repetitive nature of many songs and rhymes helps children identify familiar words, both spoken and in print, a great skill for emergent readers.

    What can I do?

    As you can see, music has lots of links to literacy and it can be a fun way of introducing key concepts to your little one. Some ways of encouraging literacy development through music are:
    • Sing lots with your child - encourage your little one to enjoy music and songs by singing and moving with them as much as possible.
    • Use song books - stories put to music can be a brilliant way of encouraging a love of stories and can help with recalling new vocabulary and familiar words, as well as developing their sense of rhythm and beat.
    • Play games that develop rhyming and rhythm - there are lots of songs that involve clapping to a beat, for example 'patter-cake baker's man' and most songs have lots of rhyming words. Helping your child develop these skills will really benefit your child when they start to read.
    For more information and ideas, check out our Facebook page

    See you soon!

     Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
    manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
    in psychology and early childhood development. 


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