One of the most common difficulties children encounter when learning to read is the failure to understand the alphabetic principle, that is, how written spellings represent the sounds of words. Phonics games help children develop the confidence and understanding with phonics they need to be successful readers.
The most important aspect of phonics games is that they teach children to link sounds with letters. For instance, in Reading Eggs, each lesson focuses on a specific letter, presenting the child with visuals of how the letter looks in written form, then presenting the sound that the letter makes. Children therefore learn to associate this particular letter in its written form to that particular sound.
As an example of an early lesson, Lesson One in Reading Eggs introduces the letter m with a strong instructional focus on the phonic skill of recognising that the written letter makes a particular sound. Also the phonemic awareness skill of being able to hear the sound as part of spoken words is addressed. Lesson parts 1 and 2 use a highly engaging animation starring Sam the Ant, who introduces a range of interactive activities to reinforce the letter’s sound and its shape, and then asks the student to listen for the sound in words. This last phonemic awareness activity is a regular element in these early lessons. Each of these two parts also contain a memorable song that acts as an additional child-friendly way to remember the letter sound. The programme often uses multiple memory cues to reinforce a new skill to aid in learning retention; for example, in this lesson, the letter is linked to the picture of a mouse, and Sam eats a cupcake and says, “Mmm.”
Playing phonics games is never a substitute for children reading books. Phonics games are very effective when combined with reading as this gives children the opportunity to put into practice all the phonics skills they have learnt.
Each lesson from lesson 9 onwards in Reading Eggs ends with an ebook that helps children apply the skills learnt in that lesson to actual reading. These ebooks, which are carefully matched to the child’s current reading ability, give children the opportunity to practise the letter-sound correspondences they have learnt in this and earlier lessons by reading extended text. By reading these books children learn that the ultimate goal of learning to read is reading real books and being able to derive meaning from reading.