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  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - Reading with Phonics - Why? (Part I)

Very often people ask me which is the best way to teach - sight words or phonics?

My answer - BOTH but start with phonics!

Why is it important to start with the phonics? Phonics are the way our brain works out the reading. If a child is taught to read the word cat as c-a-t, years later he will be able to read the word categorize as cat-e-go-rize. A child who is taught reading with sight words has to learn both cat and categorize, in addition to another million of words.

Phonics are the way the brain works!

Over the course of time, our brain will remember chunks of words, so that eventually words such as cat become sight words. Furthermore, this sight word becomes the building block for many other words - such as categorize. Similarly, when readers first learn to sound out the suffixes and prefixes of words it is slow at the beginning but faster later on. For example, i-n-g is long to sound out at first, but consequently, jumping, sleeping, eating and raining will be fast to read despite being long words, since now they are simply jump+ing, sleep+ing eat+ing and rain+ing.

Our brain uses sight words as building blocks

If you would like to read more about this, I recommend checking out Sally Shaywitz's amazing book about the science behind the way our brains read. In the next two weeks I'll talk about how to teach phonics and how to drill children with phonics in a fun and easy way.

Ultimately learning to read with phonics helps with reading fluency - and that is our goal!


Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

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