If you sit down and think about it – English is a very confusing language.  One of the worst parts about it is the pronunciation – particularly the fact that the alphabet letter names are different than the sounds the letters actually make when saying a word.  Think about it.  The letter “a”.  When you say “apple” the letter “a” sounds like “aaaah” not “ay” (like in hay).  Now, if you’re a young child trying to learn to read, multiply that confusion by 10!  This is the reason for phonics.    

Phonics bypasses this sort of confusion by teaching letter sounds first, and worrying about letter names later.  In phonics, children see a letter and learn it’s sound.  Then, they can see a letter shape in a word and confidently say the correct letter sound to pronounce the word.  Slowly and systematically, students are also taught the exceptions to the rules.  Children are taught for example that the silent e makes the vowels change their sound.  In this way the silent e turns “mat” into “mate” and “tap” into “tape” – which are words that are pronounced differently all because of the silent e.  

Nell teaches using this system.  If you’re already using the app, you’ll notice that no letter names are mentioned.  Letter sounds and shapes are taught through tracing and hearing sounds.  As more levels of Nell open up, the exceptions to the rules for pronunciation will be taught in a systematic and fun way, easy for kids to follow.

So, how does this pronunciation work?  How do you know what letter sound is correct?  Although it seems intuitive, some letters may leave you wondering.  X anyone? Or y?  Below is a quick pronunciation guide for beginning learners who are learning their letter sounds. The letter is listed with a word beside it.  The letter sound should sound as it is pronounced in the word listed.

a – apple (aaaah)

s – sssss (should sound like a snake)

m – mmmm (like something yummy)

e – egg

t – tab

c – cat

o – octopus, like you hear in “hot”

p – pan

u – up

d – dog

f – fan

j – jug

g – gap

l – lap

b – big

i – itch

n – nap

w – wax

r – ring

h – hat

y – yak

q – queen, should pronounce the whole “qu” sound of queen

z – zig zag

k – kite

v – van

x – the x from box or wax

When you do pronounce the sounds, try to avoid adding any extra sound to the letter.  For example, when you say “c” don’t say “ca” with a vowel on the end. Try to enunciate only the letter sound of the letter you’re teaching. The only exception here is the “q” which should go along with the “u”.  

By using phonics as a guide, you’ll be able to avoid some confusion and help your child learn to read more quickly. Of course alongside any reading program, reading books and stories to your child is good practice.  The more time your child spends listening to and looking at books, the better!  

Practice phonics with your child and enjoy the process along the way, keep things fun!  Soon enough your child will be recognizing letters she sees in her environment and pointing them out to you.  

Already working on phonics with your child? Tell us how it’s going and what works for you!