PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2007, 12:00am

The tutorial school that my child attends offers phonics courses to the students to help them with their reading. How can I learn about phonics so I can help my child? Are there any classes in the subject that I can take?

Education consultant

Florence Robertson replies:

Some schools offer seminars on phonics for parents. Find out if your child's teacher or the principal of the school if it or some other ogranisation is planning to offer any seminars to help parents understand phonics and how it helps children with their reading.

If none are available at the time, encourage the principal to consider offering a series of talks on phonics if there are enough interested parents.

You can also do several things to acquaint yourself with the basics of phonics.

Educational book stores sell books on the subject. Preview them carefully to be sure they explain both the basics and how the subject is presented to children at different grade levels. They can give a basic understanding of phonics and how it relates to reading. If available, you could purchase the book that your child uses. This would help give you an insight into the activities that your child is assigned.

Another good way to find out about phonics is through the internet. A Google on the word 'phonics' will lead you to a number of useful sites. Some of these address how the subject is used to help teach reading. Others explain both the history of phonics and the controversy over it among educators over the years. Other sites offer lesson plans, work sheets and phonics activities, some of which are interactive. Others discuss beginning and ending consonants and how to practise long and short vowels. Any of the sites will raise your awareness and understanding of phonics.

There is also software on phonics. Before purchasing it, find out where it is in use. If you want to purchase phonics software, try to test a sample of it first. Be sure that it addresses your needs.

You are to be complemented on wanting to learn about phonics. There is no doubt that it will help you understand what your child is learning in the tutorial school.

It is important, however, that you use your new learning for yourself only and not to teach your child. The teaching of phonics and reading is best left to your child's teacher. When parents try to teach their children topics in which they are not specialists, they can cause confusion.

Children are not sure whether to believe their parents or their teachers. It is better for the child that the teacher teaches the lessons and establishes the rules and practices in using phonics in learning to read. It is also important to remember that you are paying for your child's extra classes.

Your role is to be aware of what your child is learning, to understand it to the best of your knowledge, and to provide moral support to your child in any new learning experience.

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