Free Phonics Stuff (Phree Fonics Stuph?)

  • 26 January, 2012

A mother is doing her marketing with her 5-year-old in tow. She stops by the magazine rack and sees some children's workbooks aimed at teaching phonics. She pages through one of them and drops it into the grocery cart.

  This kind of scene plays out daily across America. Mothers want their kids to do well in school, and in grade 1 being able to read is "doing well." (It is no accident that so many grocery stores, drug stores, etc. sell such workbooks.)

  Such materials help kids to see the match between letters and sounds and a lot of kids like "playing school." I'd be hard pressed to say that those workbooks teach reading, but they do help give kids some purchase on letters and sounds.

  And then there are ABC refrigerator magnets, letter blocks, posters, Sesame Street, and these days, various electronic games and activities -- the best equipped preschoolers wouldn't be caught dead without their PDA, Blackberry, or I-Phone these days.

  Some of my colleagues discourage parents from buying such materials. I don't. Kids often find them to be kind of fun, and I don't think they do any harm. In fact, I think they help kids to learn some things that need to learn if they are going to be readers and the more opportunities kids get to learn these things the better.

  Which brings me to some new digital materials that parents can use in helping their children to learn to decode--that is to sound out words. The site is called Reading Bear and it is free to anyone who wants to use it.

  It has some pretty good features. Probably the best is that it sounds words out for the children, showing them graphically how the sounds match the letters (try to do that with a workbook). There are lots of electronic flashcards, activities, and quizzes, and the particular exercises change items a lot which can help keep kids interested.

  While I don't think this program will teach your child to read, I think it could help.


See what others have to say about this topic.

Larry Sanger Jul 01, 2017 10:13 PM


The URL is

Thanks for the mention, Dr. Shanahan!

Beth Jul 01, 2017 10:13 PM


So glad to see your take on these topics - both early "fun" reading stuff and decoding.

My young girls have loved those school-like workbooks and apps - I know it hasn't taught them to read, but it sure has contributed to their positive associations with reading.

And decoding . . . after many years (in our district) of full-on whole language instruction, we have a huge number of middle and high schoolers who can't decode. Certainly not everybody, but a lot more than I can ever remember having these kinds of issues in school when our teachers KNEW phonics.

I hope you'll spend a bit more time talking about the role of teaching decoding to kids who don't get it easily -- especially in this age of CCSS and disciplinary literacy -- all good stuff, but districts need to hear how the researchers are thinking we can balance it all with real kids' needs to learn how to decode.

Thank you for your work!

educator Jul 01, 2017 10:14 PM


As a tutor, I find the most common cause of children knowing their phonic sounds, but unable to read is on the increase. The cause is because they are pronouncing the phonic sounds incorrectly. For example, if they say du for the letter d, they are sounding out daddy as du-a-du-y making it hard for them to decode words. This video explains: Hear Phonic Sounds (for free)

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Free Phonics Stuff (Phree Fonics Stuph?)


One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.