Last week while I was waiting at the school gates before I picked Reuben up from school, I was talking to a friend of mine whose child is also learning phonics and reading in reception. We were chatting about the homework that had been sent home, which happened to be largely phonics-based, and how hilarious we found it that we could not understand a word. Generally speaking I’m quite academically minded, whereas Adam is very sports based; I could not, for the life of me, cope in PE spending 90% of my secondary school years avoiding it because I had those ambiguous ‘cramps’ that girls of 13-15 seems to get every week.
When Reuben first brought home his phonics/reading homework we sat down with him, read through the instructions on how we were supposed to teach it to him and both of us looked at each other with that look of horror mixed with total bemusement. Let’s be honest, how many adults want to admit that they don’t understand their four year old’s homework, and out of those adults how many of them would think to sound out a word phonetically using the syllables whilst trying to find a word within the word? I mean, come on people! When I was chatting to my friend Katie at the school gates we both laughed and said that we feel exactly the same way and we both noted the irony that our children already looked at us like we were senile.
I thought I’d put together a bit of an idiot’s guide for teaching your child to read, you know, in case you’re senile like me and Katie…
1.) Read the instruction manual until your eyes bleed
When I first opened Reuben’s reading journal, I just assumed I was going to read the book with him, point at the words and off we go, so you can understand why I burst out laughing when I saw there was a ‘guide to helping your child read’. Who needs that, right? Hmm WRONG. You need it, I need it and we all need it. Apparently they have modernised the shizzle out of reading and you are a mere Nokia 3210 trying to contain an iOS update. You are screwed.
2.) Spell out the words phonetically. Words that are not easily spelt out should be ignored, they do not exist.
Phonetically. So A makes an aaah sounds, B makes a buh sounds and so on… until you meet SH, CH, OU, OO, EE, EA, PH…. the list goes on. English sucks. So brush up on the sounds of words and be prepared to explain to a very frustrated and annoyed four year old that while they are correct that the word starts with E (ehh) it isn’t like Ehh – lephant, or ehh-gg because some dip-ship decided that an A made an E sound like eeeee (see. f-EA-r). Confused yet?
3.) Sound out the syllables and count them. No really, count them.
Syllables, remember those? So do I, until I thought I was being clever and explained to my husband that he would need to tell Roo words like, Meadow need to be said as M-EA-DOWWWW to utilise syllables… yeah. What could the child possibly learn from this part of the lesson anyway… *moves swiftly on*.
4.) Find words within a word, because you can do that right?
If you are one of those people who has always loved shows like Countdown, or better 8 out of 10 cats does Countdown, then you are in luck here. Roo’s homework sheet suggested we find the words within a larger word to help with letter recognition. Obviously, this is a bit of ‘fun’ (haha, hilarious, fact filled fun -_-) or those shows are auditioning early. Either way, my crowning glory was when I managed to find ball in balloon. No joke.
2.) When all else fails, refer to the master : YouTube.
Ahh YouTube, you sexy bastard. Without YouTube my children would be stuck reading about John and Sarah in their very white, middle class, British world with no preparation for Countdown or ability to enunciate syllables. However, YouTube opens up a world where phonics are alive and you can sleep safe knowing your children won’t have to suffer the same shameful fate as you and will learn to read properly. Altogether now, “A, a, ants on my arm…”