Why? Because science says so.
Beyond being a student myself, I’ve been in the education field for over 20 years. I am baffled to why there's still a debate on how to teach reading. If you’re unaware of this, there is a big one. And it can get quite intense.
One side believes that you must include systematic, explicit phonics in reading instruction (see Structured Literacy). The other side believes children can learn to read by simply reading- learning whole words and using pictures to help them figure out words they don’t know (see Whole Language).
By the title of this post you can guess my stance. Allow me to get up on my soapbox for a bit (my husband says I carry it with me at all times-ha!).
First, let’s just think practically. Your little one is reading. They get to a word they don’t know. Do you want them to look at the picture to figure out the word, or stay on the word and sound it out? I prefer the latter. Why? Because word attack skills will stay with them for the rest of their lives, pictures go away.
Phonics instruction includes word attack skills- sounding out each sound, or looking at word parts like roots and suffixes, then blending it all together. The science of this is actually a lot more complicated, but hopefully you get the big picture (pun intended) idea on why you want your little one's reading instruction to include systematic, explicit phonics. They need instruction that will teach them sounds, and how to blend those sounds together to create words. Science backs this up.
Phonics includes many parts and pieces. Before a learner can even tackle sounding out words, they must have some pre-skills in place (see my whole website). Once those foundational skills are in place, they can start the real work of learning sound-letter relationships; decoding skills (reading); encoding skills (spelling); build fluency; and the list goes on. Learning to read takes a lot! If you've read my work before, you've heard me say this and I'll say it again-
Learning to speak is natural, learning to read is not. Reading must be taught.
Second, this also about social injustice. Learning to read is necessary to advance in our society in pretty much anything- even participating in TikTok takes some reading skills. Unfortunately reading instruction is not equal. All little ones, no matter the color of their skin or the neighborhood they live deserve scientifically proven reading instruction. School districts everywhere need to be training their teachers to include structured phonics daily in grades K-3. As a parent, you have the power to help get this momentum moving.
Google 'Structured Literacy'. Phonics & Phonological Awareness (what I teach through many of my games) are two core pieces to this method. Ask your child's teacher if they use this approach to reading instruction. If they don't, start asking for change.