How to Integrate Phonics into Pre-Reading Instruction for Early Literacy Success

Phonics is a way of teaching children how letters in the alphabet correspond to sounds in spoken language. 

In simpler terms, it helps kids understand the connection between the letters they see on a page and the sounds those letters make when spoken. For example, in phonics, children learn that the letter "B" makes the sound "buh" as in "bat." 

It's a systematic method that builds a bridge between written letters and the spoken word. The idea is that by mastering these letter-sound relationships, children can more easily decode and read words, enhancing their overall reading abilities.

How Does Phonics Support Pre-Reading?

Phonics empowers pre-readers with the tools to understand written language, facilitating a seamless transition into formal reading instruction. Here’s how:

1. Letter-sound recognition

Phonics helps children see the link between letters and the sounds they make. This connection is vital for figuring out words and understanding written language when they start reading.

As they get better at recognising letters and their sounds through phonics, they become more independent in understanding various words in what they read, strengthening their overall reading skills.

2. Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognise and manipulate individual sounds, or phonemes, within words. By identifying the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in words, children develop a deep understanding of how words are constructed and pronounced. 

This is vital for effective reading and spelling as it lays the groundwork for recognising sound patterns and decoding words accurately. Through phonemic awareness, children gain a strong foundation in the intricate sound structure of language, enhancing their overall language and literacy skills.

3. Building vocabulary

Building vocabulary begins with learning letter-sound associations in phonics. 

As children grasp the connection between letters and their corresponding sounds, they simultaneously acquire a basic knowledge of words. This early exposure lays the foundation for recognising familiar words when encountered in reading, contributing to language development and comprehension skills essential for literacy success.

4. Decoding skills

Decoding skills empower children to systematically break down unfamiliar words by associating individual letters with their corresponding sounds. 

This enables them to independently sound out and understand new words during reading. Mastering decoding is fundamental for reading comprehension, giving children the confidence to navigate and comprehend a variety of texts successfully.

5. Spelling and writing

Understanding phonics contributes to improved spelling and writing skills. As children grasp the connection between sounds and letters, they’re able to construct sentences with greater accuracy. This reinforces their overall language skills and facilitates effective communication in both written and verbal forms.

6. Early literacy confidence

Exposure to phonics during the pre-reading stage builds confidence in young learners. As they acquire the skills to navigate the world of letters and sounds, children become more comfortable with the idea of reading.

7. Structured learning approach

Phonics instruction often follows a systematic and structured approach. This organised method provides a clear progression in learning, making it easier for children to understand and apply their knowledge consistently.

4 Ways to Integrate Phonics into Pre-Reading Activities

Exploring effective strategies for incorporating phonics into reading activities can significantly enhance a child's literacy journey. Here's a practical guide on how to do so:

1. Sound awareness games

Sound awareness games are engaging activities designed to heighten a child's awareness and recognition of individual sounds, or phonemes, within words. They involve recognising and manipulating individual sounds within words. 

These games enhance a child's ability to discern, isolate, and manipulate phonemes, laying a strong foundation for future reading success. 

Here are some examples of sound awareness games:

  • Select words and ask your child to identify the sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of each word
  • Choose a set of words that rhyme (e.g., cat, hat, mat) and encourage them to identify the common sound
  • Play the classic "I Spy" game where your child takes turns selecting an object in the room. Instead of saying the object's name, describe it by its initial sound. For example, "I spy something that starts with the 'b' sound”

2. Letter-sound exploration

Letter-sound exploration involves introducing individual letters and their corresponding sounds in a hands-on and interactive manner. This approach provides young learners with a foundational understanding of the alphabet and helps them recognize the vital link between letters and their sounds, fostering early phonics awareness.

For example, you can pair flashcards with images of objects that start with the corresponding letter sound. Show the letter "B" flashcard along with a picture of a "ball."

3. Alphabet games

Alphabet games contribute to the initial stages of phonics by helping children become familiar with individual letters, their shapes, and corresponding sounds. These activities help children recognise the alphabet's role in language and set the stage for more advanced phonics instruction.

4. Storytelling

Another great way is to weave phonics in your storytelling sessions.

Start by picking books with repetitive sounds or catchy rhymes. As you read, encourage your child to spot and say words with specific sounds. If the story has words with the "ch" sound, for example, make it a game to find them together.

How Does I Can Read Integrate Phonics

Recognising the unique literacy needs of each child, I Can Read has developed a tailored literacy journey with a methodology created by educational psychologists over 15 years of dedicated research. 

At I Can Read, the emphasis goes beyond age; students are placed in Pre-Reading programmes based on their reading abilities. This approach allows them to tackle tasks that are both achievable and confidence-boosting.

Our dedicated teachers, well-versed in applying I Can Read's distinctive pedagogy, encourage children to consistently challenge their personal best. It's an approach grounded in the belief that what children can articulate today shapes their future abilities in reading, writing, and thinking. 


Bringing phonics into early reading activities is like giving children a head start in the world of reading. We're setting them up for a future where they feel confident and excited about reading. 

These simple activities help children learn the basics of reading in a way that's enjoyable and sticks with them while laying the foundation for literacy success.