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March 11, 2022 3 min read

Phonics instruction has always been one of the foundations of the curriculum at Neighborhood Lit and we have written about the importance of it in reading development before inThe Suggestion Box. Unfortunately, Covid-19 and the Pandemic have led to a significant decline in reading achievement for all students, particularly those in kindergarten and the younger grades and especially children from lower socioeconomic or minority groups.  Many schools are reevaluating curriculum in response to this crisis and are trying to hire more teachers who are experienced in teaching phonics. However, parents need to be a part of the solution and reinforce these skills at home.  That is why, this blog will be focused on providing the phonics concepts that children should be learning as they grow and develop so parents can educate themselves and support their children’s reading development. For the sake of the brevity of this blog, it is worth noting that this list does not include every single phonics skill that should be taught, but it will cover some of the basics.


Preschool Age-Kindergarten: 

    • Phonemic Awareness isthe ability to hear, identify, move or change the sounds (phonemes) in spoken words and is just as important to reading development as phonics.  In fact, phonemic awareness skills lay the groundwork for being able to sound out words later in phonics instruction. Phonemic Awareness skills include:
      • Breaking words into syllables by clapping or tapping out the parts of the word:  pancake has two parts “pan” and “cake
      • Rhyming: being able to group words by their ending sounds. What words rhyme withcat?bat, sat, hat, mat, rat, that, etc.
      • Segmenting words into different parts according to their:
        • Initial sounds:r -  ring, rat, rope, run, rip ors - snake, soap, sat, sun, sock
        • Final sounds:g - rag, fig, hog, sing, tugor  n - green, mean, man, ton,  
        • Onset (consonants before the vowels)and rime (everything left in the word):st (onset)one (rime);fr (onset)ee (rime)
      • Blending words:listening to words as the sounds are blended together to try and guess the word. /b/ /a/ /t/ = bat; /p/ /i/ /g/ = pig; /f/ /u/ /n/ = fun
      • Adding, deleting or substituting sounds:
      • Adding: Adding a letter to a word to make a new word: add /w/ at the beginning of in to make the word win.
      • Deletion: Taking a sound off of a spoken word:  “Say the word ‘cat’ without the /c/.”:  “at.” 
      • Substitution: Changing a sound in a word to another sound:  “My word is ‘sun.’ Change the /s/ to /f/. What is the new word?: “fun”
    • Learning vowels.  Every word has a vowel in it so children should begin by learning the short vowel sounds of a, e, i, o and u. It helps to associate a key picture to each vowel to remember the sound it makes.  The vowel makes the sound heard at the beginning of the picture’s name:
    • Short a = apple
    • Short e = egg
    • Short i = igloo
    • Short o = octopus
    • Short u = umbrella

1st Grade and Up:

  • Learning consonant digraphs and blends:  
    • A consonant digraph is when the sounds of two consonants make a single sound: sh, th, wh, ch, ck.
    • A consonant blend is when two consonants are blended together but when you stretch out the word, each sound can still be heard: bl, gr, st, tr, spr 
  • Long vowel patterns:  In some words, long vowels make the sound of their name such as /a/ in acorn or /i/ in iron.  Many words also have a variety of vowel patterns that are made up of vowel digraphs which are two letters with at least one being a vowel like /ai/ in pail or /oa/in goat. 
  • Long vowel, silent e:  When a vowel and a final e are separated by a single consonant, the first vowel is long and the final e is silent. A good phrase to remember this is “When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.  rake, fine, rope, tube.


As mentioned before, this is a condensed list of basic concepts that young children should be learning during phonics instruction. It should serve as a starting point for parents to use as a way to understand and support what their children are learning in reading. For fun, active and multisensory ways to teach these concepts, please refer to the hands-on activities mentioned in previous blogs.  


Any questions?  Please email us at Janice@Neighborhoodlit.com.  Taylor Burke is a teacher and Director of Communications at Neighborhood Lit. and works closely with Janice Migliazza, a Reading Specialist and owner of Neighborhood Lit, Route 34, Colts Neck to bring you this information.