Here in Singapore, we pride ourselves as one of the best English-speaking countries in the region, yet 64% of our population converses in other languages at home.
In their early developmental years, kids need a strong supportive environment which exposes them to the proper use of English, but are we actually providing that for them?
For pre-school children (aged 6 and under), most words are actually unfamiliar to early readers in print, even if they have spoken knowledge of the word. Being able to associate letters to their sound through phonics, will allow children to make the link between the unfamiliar print words to their spoken knowledge.
Phonics is a method for teaching reading and writing, which enables children to associate letters with their respective sounds, allowing them to decode unfamiliar words and to read by themselves.
The transition from slowly sounding out a word, to increasing speed of subsequently recognising it, is termed as “learning to read by sight”. Every reader must gradually make this transition to read fluently.
Many parents confuse a good speaking ability of their young child with an equal competence of their reading capabilities, which is often not the case. The former allows communication while the latter (reading capabilities), accounts for a significant foundation for the child’s subsequent academic performance for the English Language.
Especially in the context of Singapore, where our primary schools represent an above-average academic requirement compared to the rest of the world, a weak foundation of reading ability may result in difficulties for a child to comprehend the various academic subjects and keeping up with our rigorous academic curriculum.
Phonics as a teaching program, has also been proven to be an effective mechanism of helping children with learning difficulties (e.g. dyslexia, speech-delay), to improve and progress.
For children who have been diagnosed or display early symptoms, the younger they are when exposed to an effective phonics program, the more effective it has been in overcoming their difficulties.