Media kindly brought to you by Learning Logic


Over the last two decades, there has been much debate and discussion about the best way to teach children to read. Recently updated curriculum documents, and a wealth of research, support a systematic synthetic phonics approach to teaching literacy. Many parents, particularly those who were taught to read with a whole language approach in the 80s and 90s (think Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check), are left wondering how to best support their child in learning to read.

Reading to your child is important to develop language skills fundamental to reading comprehension but it doesn’t teach children to read. Unlike learning to speak, learning to read is not a biologically natural process. In this blog we’ll share information about the current evidence on the science of reading, giving you an insight into the reading strategies your child should be taught in the classroom, as well as the ways you can help at home.

What is phonics teaching and why is it important?

In 2000, after the largest, most comprehensive evidenced-based review ever conducted of research on how children learn to read, the USA’s National Reading Panel (NRP) presented its findings. The specific areas the NRP noted as crucial for reading instruction were phonemic instruction, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The recommendations were that students must be taught these areas explicitly and systematically.

A high quality systematic synthetic phonics program like Little Learners Love Literacy® focuses on phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge (phonics) gained through an explicit, structured program, as well as vocabulary and comprehension. To ensure children have the foundational skills for reading and spelling success, they must be explicitly taught the 44 sounds of English language and the letters (spellings) that represent them. 

Our Seven Stages sequence ensures that children are never asked to read something that is too difficult for them or that they have not been taught the skills to read yet. The sequence introduces the sounds and letters of English in an explicit, step-by-step cumulative sequence. Each sound and letter is taught before children practise reading and spelling with it.

What are decodable books?

Decodable books are our ‘secret ingredient’ for success. They only use the sounds and letters children have been explicitly taught, and a handful of taught ‘heart words’, allowing them to apply their learning and build confidence. 

Our Stage 1 books contain words comprised of these 8 letters and sounds only.

These are Australian books children LOVE to read with words they CAN read. Rather than relying on picture cues or guessing strategies, the reader must use their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes to decode and read the words independently.

What is decoding?

Let’s use the image above to help us understand this term. We start with a word, cat. We then need to break the word down and identify each of the graphemes (letters). Then, we need to match those graphemes with the phoneme (sounds) they represent. We can say the phonemes out loud and blend them together to hear the word. The final step is to connect the spoken word to our vocabulary knowledge and comprehend what we have read. This is reading, hooray!

How you can help?

You can help at home by:

  • Reading to your child – We all know how important bedtime stories are, but let us reassure you that reading a range of books to your child is a valuable activity at any time of day. While children develop their own word-reading skills, it is vital to hear books read to them for vocabulary and comprehension development.
  • Being able to hear, say and play with speech sounds (phonemes) is crucial to reading and spelling development in Foundation and Year 1, as well as pre-school. Why not ask your child to touch their f-ee-t, h-o-p or d-a-n-ce? Read our Milo’s Birthday Surprise storybook together, listen to the songs, find things in the illustrations that begin with each character’s special sound.
  • When your child struggles to read a word, encourage them to sound it out and blend it to read. Avoid asking them to look at the picture or asking them to memorise whole words.
  • Reading and writing practice – Children need lots of practice opportunities to master the phonics knowledge and skills they are being taught (perhaps even more than you think).

We have a range of fun games and activities to provide this practice at each stage of your child’s development. You can access these by visiting the Learn and Play at Home collection on our website.

You can also find more information and support on the Little Learners Love Literacy website and  YouTube channel.

Glossary of helpful terms

Blend: to put together the phonemes in a word in order to say it; for example, /s/u/n/, sun and /s/m/a/sh/, smash

Decode: to ‘sound out’ and blend together phonemes to read words

Decodable texts: phonetically constrained texts that provide practice decoding phonemes/graphemes taught at that Stage

Encode: to segment the phonemes and write down corresponding graphemes to spell words

Grapheme: the written representation of a phoneme. It may have one or more letters; for example, sh-ar-p and eigh-t

Heart words: common words that children need to learn by heart as they do not have the knowledge to decode them at the stage they need them. Later these words will become decodable. 

Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound in speech, for example cat has 3 phonemes: /k/a/t/. The word thing also has 3 phonemes: /th/i/ng/. We use slashes to denote phonemes.

Phonemic awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words. It involves the important skills of segmenting and blending. It also includes the advanced skills of deleting, adding or substituting phonemes to make new words. Phonemic awareness is purely oral and is critical for successful reading and spelling. 

Segment: breaking up a word into its individual sounds orally, for example chips – /ch/i/p/s/

Systematic synthetic phonics: an explicit, small steps approach to teaching reading and spelling whereby children learn the alphabetic code in a carefully planned sequence to read words by decoding and spell words by encoding