What is phonics?
Phonics is one method of teaching children how to read and write.
It's all about sounds. There are 44 sounds in the English language, which we put together to form words.
Some are represented by one letter, like 't', and some by two or more, like 'ck' in duck and 'air' in chair.
Children are taught the sounds first, then how to match them to letters, and finally how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling.
Synthetic phonics refers to 'synthesising', or blending, the sounds to read words. It's based on the idea that children should sound out unknown words and not rely on their context.
Why do schools use the phonics approach?
Synthetic phonics is the way most schools in the UK teach children how to read and write. There's a lot of sound evidence that the phonics approach works.
Researchers at St Andrews University examined the teaching of synthetic phonics in Scotland over a period of seven years. This government-funded study, published in 2005, showed that synthetic phonics was successful in teaching children to read, in particular boys and disadvantaged pupils.
At the request of the previous Labour government, a review was conducted on the teaching of early reading and a report on the review was published in 2006.
The report concluded that for most children phonics was the best route to becoming a skilled reader. The report's recommendations were incorporated into the revised Primary Framework for literacy and the Early Years Foundation Stage.
The current coalition government backs the teaching of synthetic phonics in schools. Its education White Paper, published in November 2010, states that: "Systematic synthetic phonics is the best method for teaching reading."
It has committed to providing the resources to support the teaching of synthetic phonics in primary schools.
For books to practise phonics at home, search 'Phonics Bug'
in the Amazon Book Store.