Does it make any sense to hope your kid will learn phonics by playing games on an iPhone or iPad? A book seems simpler, less expensive and better. And kids like to be read to. In a book, the words are in context with the story and pictures.
I don’t own an iPad so I borrowed one from Jenny Gillespie, our graphic designer. Even she said she prefers books for teaching her kids to read and she’s 30, so I don’t feel like such a dinosaur because I prefer books.
Books have distinct advantages. Spill juice on a book? Drop it on a hard floor? No problem. Spill juice on Mom’s iPhone or iPad? Drop it on a tile floor? Mom’s going to be upset.
A company sent us a press release about a phonics game called Coop Phonics. The release says, “My game is the first REAL (emphasis theirs) social learning game ever created.” The game is social as in the parent points to the word on the screen, pronounces it and then presses an icon to initiate lots of sound effects and old-school-looking graphics. And it’s not really a game.
Coop Phonics is $1.99 and based on my experience with the “game” it is way overpriced. Even if it were free I don’t think it would be a good use of time.
Kids learn phonics so they can sound out words they don’t know. As they sound out words, they often discover the word they are trying to read is one they have heard and said before. There is a sound-symbol relationship kids have to learn in order to read.
All kids need some phonics instruction. How much instruction they need depends on the kid. Some kids internalize the phonics rules quickly, while others need more explicit instruction and practice. The more kids read and are read to, the more they add to their sight word vocabulary — they learn how their listening and speaking vocabularies look in print.
When you read to your kids, point to the word they don’t know and sound it out with them. With the youngest kids, just sound out the first letter. I know some preschools teach reading to 2- and 3-year-olds, but really, kids who learn their ABCs in preschool along with some letter sounds will do fine when they get to kindergarten and first grade, when reading instruction starts and kids are developmentally ready for it.
My kids are grown and learned to be excellent readers in kindergarten and first grade without an iPad. I’m not willing to wade through hundreds of games on iTunes looking for a good phonics app, so if you know of one, tell me so I can check it out and share it with our readers.