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How Does Phonics Contribute to Reading Success?

Phonics contributes significantly to reading success! In this post, you'll learn how phonics instruction serves as the foundation that leads to children understanding what they read and enjoying reading.

What is Phonics Instruction, Anyway? 

Let's begin with a quick review of what phonics instruction is. 

Phonics instruction is teaching of the relationships between letters and sounds. It can include simple letter sound relationships, like the letter "t" representing the /t/ sound, all the way up to more complex relationships, like "igh" representing the long i sound.

From Phonics to Reading Fluency

Have you ever listened to a child who is just learning how to read?

Their decoding (figuring out what the words say) may sound choppy and slow, as they say the sounds of the letters and blend them to read words.

This is a very normal stage in the reading process!

But eventually we want students' reading to speed up. We want them to be able to read at a good pace, with high accuracy, and with expression - that's what reading fluency is.

And how is reading fluency achieved?

It's achieved through a child having the phonics knowledge to decode words, and through orthographic mapping. 

Orthographic mapping is a process whereby students learn the connections between the letters and sounds in a word. It facilitates quick word recognition.

When students can decode and recognize words quickly, they're able to read at a good pace, with a high level of accuracy, and this also helps them read with expression.

From Reading Fluency to Comprehension

When a reader has good fluency, this can facilitate strong reading comprehension.

Here's an example to illustrate this:

Imagine that you're learning to read in a new language. You have a low level of skill with the language, and you spend lots of time just figuring out what the words say and sound like.

In this scenario, are you going to be able to deeply comprehend what you're reading? Really think about the meaning, make inferences, predictions, and so on?

Most likely....no!

And the same is true for students learning to read for the first time. If their reading speed and overall fluency is poor, their working memory is not going to be freed up to focus on making meaning.

On the other hand, if students can read at a good pace, with good accuracy, then it's much more likely that they will be able to understand what they're reading (unless there are any complicating factors like language comprehension problems).

From Comprehension to Enjoyment

Have you ever picked up a difficult-to-comprehend text - like directions for putting together furniture, or a medical manual, or a law textbook - just because you wanted to practice figuring out the words and what it all means?

Probably not!

Similarly, students don't get motivated to pick up a book because they want to struggle through figuring out the words and understanding the text.

People read for many reasons, but typically children are motivated to read A) because their skills are growing and they're enjoying how they're growing, and MOST OF ALL B) because they want to understand the story or text.

When comprehension is strong, students are much more likely to enjoy reading and be motivated to read more. Reading becomes fun!

Putting It All Together

Isn't it interesting how those foundational phonics skills can lead to fluency, reading comprehension, and reading enjoyment?

That's why we created From Sounds to Spelling - because high-quality phonics programs are essential to reading success!

To learn more about phonics and the brain and how phonics instruction facilitates reading, check out this blog post.

What is Systematic Phonics Instruction?

7 Fun, Free Phonics Activities for Parents to Do at Home

What Are The Different Phonics Teaching Methods?