Why Phonics Programs in Kindergarten Matter
The best phonics program for kindergarten is not what you think, but the answer is critical. Whatever your motivation, the goal is the same: your child needs to learn phonics to become an amazing reader. Maybe they are three years old and just getting started with letters and sounds, or maybe they are six and you want to make sure they don’t fall behind even though “learning” is now virtual for your school.
But with so many different phonics programs to choose from, how can you decide what is best phonics program for your kindergarten or pre-k angel/monster? The old go-to of Hooked on Phonics broke ground forty years ago. It was among the first programs that leveraged the early science of reading, teaching the fundamentals that lead to reading in later years. But a lot has changed since then. New digital approaches like Homer and ABC Mouse take the same concepts but rework them into digital experiences which can help entertain your kids while they learn.
There is clear scientific consensus around the importance of phonics instruction in the initial stages of learning to read. Remember, no matter what you choose, you’re more or less on the right track looking at a phonics-based solution. But let’s call all of that “Phonics 1.0”. There is something new on the horizon, and that’s what we wanted to talk about.
What is the Best Phonics Program 2.0?
It turns out, it’s not about how you teach phonics to your kids, but what phonics exactly you are teaching them. All of the existing solutions are based on the same fundamental ideas of how to teach reading, based on deep research into the study of how kids learn to read English. But while many of these programs are fantastic, they miss something critical. In a way, phonics as we have known it is just a bandaid on the real reading challenges we have reading. Think about it, how many of the words in this paragraph could a child just “sound out”? 5? 10? Phonics doesn’t work on its own, which directly leads to fewer than half of kids reading at grade level. The best phonics program for kindergarten needs to be based on the newest science, science that points us all in a different direction.
It is only in the last decade or so that Academics began to explore the universal truths behind literacy, drawing inspiration not only from English, which is a true outlier, but from a world filled with language systems that are written and read differently than our own. The results are extraordinarily important if you want to save thousands of hours teaching your kids to read. In virtually every other country with an alphabet, kids learn to read years and years faster and more accurately than they do in English. That’s important.
“English is truly exceptional. By the end of the 1st year of schooling, hyperlexic [extremely fast and accurate] style reading is the norm in transparent alphabetic orthographies [languages where spelling is very easy and regular]; most children are capable of tackling almost any printed (monosyllabic) word. In English, such proficiency is delayed for several years.” – David Share, Ph.D, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa
How Can We Bridge the Gap?
Ok, but so what if kids can learn Spanish in a year, we want to teach our kids English! Well, it turns out there is a simple way to make reading English as easy as it is to read in Spanish. Add TIPS.
TIPS is like Phonics 2.0, based on the methods used to teach Israeli children to read for two thousand years. The fundamental premise is simple: let’s teach kids every single sound they need to read like a champion. TIPS turns our complex language into something as easy to read as Spanish, where every letter makes one sound.
There is a reason that kids learn to read Spanish fluently in a single year of study and remember how to do so for decades (and that so many American children fail). Reading in Spanish is easy. The language itself makes all the difference.
Considering A New Approach to Phonics
So as you think about the best phonics program for your kids, there are really two potential choices. There is of course the old way of doing things: from the ages of 4-6 learn the letters and dozens of exceptions, by 7 or 8 learn hundreds of more exceptions and the complex decoding rules.
But there is also something new. Something we have been working on these last few years that is just now rolling out across the country. TIPS is Phonics 2.0. It’s a better, simpler approach, which quickly leads to joyful reading for you and your child. Reading just one of our books with your child is enough to see how it works. But don’t take our word for it, just give it a try.