Reading Academy

Phonics: Illuminating the Code

Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words, and phonics is the ability to recognize the relationship between individual letters (graphemes) and their correlating sounds (phonemes). 

The Importance of Developing Phonics Skills

The first nine years of life, until about the third grade, are critical years for language development. This is when we learn to speak, learn to read, and begin to learn to write. At any age after that language development period, we are using the skills we obtained in those critical years to learn, grow, and communicate with our community.

The skills we develop during those first nine years largely have to do with phonics and how we decode or encode words. For a majority of children, phonics skills will come easily and without much thought, but a fair number of children (roughly 30%) will struggle to understand phonics. We all benefit from learning phonics and knowing how to properly decode and encode words, but for that 30%, explicit, systematic instruction in phonics/decoding/encoding is indispensable for understanding the code of English.

Try our phonics program! Get started for $10! ›


What is Decoding and Encoding?

You may be wondering what we mean by decoding and encoding words. When we decode a word, we are applying our understanding of phonics and the rules that English words follow to correctly pronounce or read the word. Encoding is the exact opposite skill, which we refer to generally as spelling. When we encode a word, we use our understanding of phonics to build the word. 

Those who Struggle

Learners who struggles with reading, almost always have a deficiency in the first two components of the Reading Pyramid (phonemic awareness or phonics). It's important to know whether that deficiency is due to a reading disorder.

Nearly all reading disorders affect the ability to process information on the explicit units of language. Dyslexia is a broad term capturing several of these processing disorders that make it difficult to recognize words, letters, sounds and other parts of language. 

Laying the Foundation of Strong Literacy Skills

It is so important to build a strong foundation in the explicit units of language and to build it correctly. There is a certain way and order in which these foundational reading components should be taught. If they are presented in a correct manner, no learner should have to struggle with reading. A proven approach to teaching the components in a correct, explicit, and systematic way is the Orton-Gillingham approach. 

If you are a parent who wants to ensure your child has the foundational skills necessary for becoming a successful reader, learn about effective reading strategies and begin to apply them in your home. 

Learn more about the Orton-Gillingham approach.

Finding Help

Free learning resources: Reading Horizons is committed to helping parents learn effective reading strategies. Through the use of resources like the At-Home Reading Academy and Parent Phonics Training Online Workshop, you will have the knowledge, support, and expertise to ensure reading success in your home. 

Well-designed instructional products: A benefit of taking your child’s literacy education into your hands is that you can see exactly how and what your child is learning from the instructional materials. Reading Horizons well-designed, easy-to-use instructional products are research-based and proven, which makes managing your child's learning experience that much easier. 

Taking the Next Step

The two foundational components of reading that we have outlined thus far (phonics and phonemic awareness) are still only the beginning of the learning process. As these two components start to increase your child's language skills, he/she will face a new task: becoming a fluent reader. Fluency is the next step to reading mastery.