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Understanding Phonics Development Milestones: A Guide for Parents and Educators

Being able to identify words by their sounds (phonics) is one of the very early milestones on the road to being a literate reader and writer. Enabling your learners (be they your own children or the children you teach) to become skilled phonitisers means supporting them at the appropriate stages of development for their individual needs. This guide will help you identify what milestones to expect in phonics development, as well as what can be done to help at each stage. It is essential to remember that each child will take their own path through the stages, and that generally speaking, some learners take longer to learn than others.


Birth to 18 Months: Awakening to the World of Books


What to Look For:


Stage 1: Developing Interest in Books and Print. Before they learn to talk, babies can respond to some books In this level, book- and print-exposure is also important for literacy development, not necessarily through reading but through exposure.


How to Support:


Regularly read aloud to your child, using picture books with simple, high-contrast images. Encourage exploration of books through touch and sight.


12 to 36 Months: The Emergence of Pre-Reading


Skills What to Look For:


Interest in Print: Children may show curiosity about the letters and numbers they see in their environment.


Does pretend reading have a natural counterpart (pretend writing or pretending to write)? We see almost universal pretend reading, repetitive scripts or word sequences, and pretend talking that is composed and articulate. A toddler pretends to read a book.


Enjoyment of Storybook Reading: Children in this age range are in a golden period for nurturing a love of reading, as they display clear tastes in terms of the stories or books they prefer. Curiosity about Syllables, Rhymes, Sounds: Rhyming games and playful exploration of sounds become interesting.


Mark Making and Drawing: Experimental efforts may not resemble conventional characters but serve as a primordial version of writing.


How to Support:


Engage in shared reading daily, discussing the story and pointing out letters and words.


Play rhyming games and sing songs to develop phonemic awareness.


Provide materials for drawing and writing, encouraging scribble play.


30 to 60 Months: Growing Awareness and Experimentation


What to Look For:


Increasing Awareness of Words and Print: Children begin to recognize that print carries meaning.


Playing with Sounds and Language: More sophisticated language play emerges, including alliteration and rhyme.


Observation of Objects: He is seen watching;Recognition of familiar word: he can observe simple, familiar words, especially in the environment.


Recognition of Own Name: The first glyph most children can read and write is their own name. They must also be able to scan from left to right: Orientation to Material from Left to Right: Beginning to establish a pattern of print orientation.


Letter-sound (phonics) awareness: awareness of the sounds letters make and how they relate to written symbols is asserted to increase.


Experimenting with Writing and Spelling: Early attempts at writing letters and spelling words phonetically.


How to Support:


Continue shared reading, progressively introducing more complex books.


Play sound matching games and initiate activities that focus on letter recognition and sounds.


Help her note vocabulary that she recognizes in the real world (eg, stop signs, store names). Encourage her to use descriptive phrases that fit the situation (eg, ‘He put a fuzzy bend in it’). Help her note vocabulary that she recognizes in the real world (eg, stop signs, store names).


Encourage around-the-box (wordless) writing, such as picture letters to far-away family, or simple storybooks for littles.


Individual Paths to Literacy


Note that these milestones are neither absolutes nor precise benchmarks and that children’s learning and development are in fact highly variable and individual in form and pace. Children can be highly precocious in particular areas, or lag in others.


Supporting Each Stage


REGARDLESS OF THE EXACT TIMING, THERE ARE NICE WAYS TO SUPPORT ALL STAGES OF PHONICS DEVELOPMENT WITH MINDFUL LEARNING ACTIVITIES THAT ARE INTERESTING FOR THE CHILD AND APPROPRIATE TO HER SKILLS AND STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT. THE TRICK IS TO MAKE LEARNING PLEASANT AND IN THE FLOW OF DAILY LIVING. ENCOURAGE EXPLORATION AND REWARD MAJOR STRIDES WITH PLAUDITS AND PRISON BREAKS ON AN ONGOING BASIS.


After all, the purpose of phonics instruction is not just reading but building a lifelong reader and lover of learning! Keep these milestones in mind as you work with your child to help build them a solid foundation for reading and learning.

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