Choosing phonics instruction programs

PHONICS RESOURCES – reviewed by our community.

1. Education Creations‘ downloadable 200 quality phonics worksheets (free online but you have to subscribe) at Education Creations. In the 1940s through 60s, a reading book called Reading With Phonics was widely used in the schools. This publication, (Lippencott, 1948), is out of print. (Copies are available from time to time on Amazon, however.) This program taught students to immediately blend the beginning sound with the short vowel that followed. It is an excellent way to teach reading through phonics. A set of worksheets adapted from this book is available at the website with your subscription. The website was voted best of the website for teachers.

2. Pathway Phonics is recommended as a cheap and effective program by Jessie Wise in “Teaching Reading: Phonics Programs that Work” . Pathway Phonics is available online from Rainbow Resources at Rainbow Also available from Rainbow Resource are MCP Phonics/Explode the Code workbooks/Alphaphonics/Saxon/ Reading Reflex and many other popular products. Search under phonics at here

3. FUNNIX Beginning Reading … The program was developed by the same authors’ who created SRA’s Reading Mastery, Horizons, and Corrective Reading Series. The same authors also wrote the book How to Teach Your CHild to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Funnix is 220 Complete 30-minute reading lessosn which are carefully sequenced. The program is phonics based, entertaining and teaches decoding, comprehension, related spelling and writing. It is computer-based instruction that does require a parent and/older sibling to work with the child. My youngest daughter used the program and by lesson 120 she was reading at a solid Second Grade level. — Reviewed by Anthony. Go to

4. Ruth Beechick’s 3Rs is a really nice, understandable and do-it-yourself homeschool guide to reading and writing (arithmetic as well) instruction. And these are as cheap as guides come. Dr Beechick’s is famous for her practical experience and common sense in the business of teaching
children, and dedication to the idea of parents teaching their children at home. The Three R’s gives guidance for teaching reading, writing, and arthimetic in Kindergarten through third grade. She explains the stages of reading, presents a simple but effective method of teaching phonics to children; goes beyond phonics to explain how to attain fluency. And her other book “Language and Thinking for Young Children” takes literacy even further. Dr Beechick is also popular for her natural method of using literature to teach spelling and writing mechanics (on which the program Learning Language Arts Through Literature is based). I found her little concise booklets very readable but thought the book to be too “bare-bones” and her phonics charts and presentation incomplete to use over the long term. For more info see
here (HomeHearts) and here (MottMedia).

5. Teacher’s Edition with Annual Lesson Plans by Myrna McCulloch (is a chronological adaptation and extension of the classic text, “The Writing Road to Reading” by Romalda and Walter Spalding)

a. Teaching Reading at Home: A Supplement to WRTR by Wanda Sanseri plus the WISE Guide. The TRaH guides you in teaching spelling/phonics/handwriting using the WRTR method, step by step. The WISE Guide is set up as spelling lists of twenty words on each two page spread.
It includes the words, sample sentences, how to mark each word and the applicable spelling rules as well as extra helps/suggestions for grammar and making it stick. On average, expect to spend 30-40 minutes a day on it.

b. Reading Works by Jay W. Patterson. A multi-sensory reading program. The first few lessons are scripted, but after that you are on your own. Read the parent’s review here. Reading Works and My First Reading Works Notebook (for student) are to be used together with the WRTR text. Available from The Works People

c. — Phonics for Reading and Spelling by Bonnie Dettmer
— OR Saxon Phonics (also based on Dr. Orton’s phonogram research but tackles the learning of the phonograms in a completely different way and integrates the famous Saxon spiral approach) reviewed here
— OR
Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself
by Charlotte Lockhart
— OR
Why Johnny Can’t Read
by Rudolf Flesch (who shocked millions of parents and indicted most schools with his in 1955. Still available and useful for parents who want to make sure their children learn to read.)

6. Teach America To Read And Spell (T.A.T.R.A.S.) A complete phonics package, beginning with the alphabet; Kit includes complete Instructional Manual, Exercise Books, TATRAS I & II Instructional Audio Cassettes on how to use the program, wide-lined writing paper pad, Flash Cards and Wooden Block Rack, Reading Record Sheets, Wall Chart, Pencils, Penny Primer and Pencil Gripper. The children are taught to correct their own dictation. Involves a lot of page flipping. Teaching follows this order: The Alphabet / Phonics facts / Manuscript letters / Phonics Habit / Instant recognition of most commonly used words (after decoded) / Reading text / Spelling / Writing. Following familiarity with the alphabet, the child is taught the phonograms, e.g., all the sounds of a /A/t cat; /AY/ ate; /AW/ all. Once they master these after five daily lessons, they learn to write it–first trace it on the “finger clock.” The program includes drilling the phonograms daily, dictation, copywork and spelling. Price $34.95 Website on TATRAS at Email for info See a review by the Bluedorns at

7. Sound Beginnings (Riggs’ Institute’s new step-by-step program put out by My Father’s House) a program similar to WRTR, has well scripted lessons to teach the phonograms, phonogram dictation, spelling dictation, and sentence dictation. Also included are worksheets that help with the spelling rules. You can also purchase a premade notebook to go along with the program. Integrated approach with handwriting exercises. Complete in itself, purchase of WRTR is not needed.

8. Reading Reflex. A very practical, easy to understand and use program that you
can fit to your own needs. – B.I.

I stick with and love using the Carmen and Geoffrey McGuinness reading program called READING REFLEX:The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read, (Fireside, 1999) for my 3 year old. After just one week of painless 5-10 minute lessons on a daily basis, we completed the first phase of instruction and my son learnt to sound out virtually any three letter word. A couple of weeks, my son not only began to sound out four-letter words but also ventured to sound out and read the word “difficult” on his own. Suitable for the very young because of the use of large letter cards, BINGO games. Because of the authors’ concern with remedial work correcting poor readers, I feel the program “gets it right first time round”, it de-emphasizes rule memorization. Most phonic methods teach about 47 rules but the rules only work 40% of the time. However, see Jessie Wise’s criticisms of this program at RR is available from Rainbow — A.K.

Also by the author of Reading Reflex, read her thoroughly researched book on reading instruction, see the book “Why Our Children Can’t Read: And What We Can Do about It” by Diane McGuinness, Ph.D. Ms. McGuinness reviews the most up-to-date research on dyslexia, phonological awareness, the practice in most schools, and other vital subjects to provide parents and teachers with accurate, useful information about how to help learners learn to read.

9. Veritas Press Phonics Museum (VPPM) available from the from Veritas
Tel:  (800)922-5082 . This covers phonics, writing (d’Nealian), spelling, some history
and art. Slow starting pace beginning with alphabet sounds means that motivated 4 or 5 year olds can use the program with success. Homeschoolers go ga-ga over the fabulous readers…not your usual “the cat sat on the mat” variety. Kids love the packaged stories like “The Alphabet Quest,”
about a little boy who visits a museum with his family and meets “Percival” a talking suit of armor that plays an alphabet game with him. Original CD songs. Fun components include beautiful quality art flash cards and there is a card stock stand up museum where art cards are placed
after learning the sounds. (Note: Problem with integrated approach is that younger children generally do not have the fine motor skills for precursive workbooks). The Homeschool Kindergarten Kit is $95.00. Homeschool Kindergarten/Grade 1 Combo Kit is $150.00.

10. The Montessori Phonetic Reading Program on CD Rom. Very innovative presentation using online tutor and the famous Montessori three-period lessons. Available from Montessori Educational Computer Systems (MECS), Tel/Fax: (505)294-7097  or email or write to MECS, 13008 Rover Ave, NE, Albuquerque NM 87112 If you are interested in the Montessori method of achieving literacy, you may wish to look at the book “Montessori Read & Write : A Parent’s Guide to Literacy for Children” by Lynne Lawrence Lynne Lawrence, a leading Montessori practitioner. The guide shows you how you can teach your children to read and write using the famous Montessori method. Packed with ideas and age-specific and fun activities and games. The Montessori strength is that it takes a child on the straightest possible road to literacy, from those first steps in recognizing letters, sounds, and shapes through vocabulary-building and spelling competence to full reading fluency and creative writing skills.

11. Sing, Spell, Read and Write is the pricest but many say this the best, multisensory complete with tapes, wall charts -look, listen, point singalong and echo approach – carries the pricest tag too. Available from Rainbow Resource, Veritas Press catalogs as well as

12. Letterland phonics program very popular in the UK. Very complete. Starts from introduction of cutesy alphabet characters, and carries out instruction mainly through its colourful story-book readers. For more details see UK website Available through Japanese agent here at

13. These are the best manipulatives I’ve seen for phonogram work. The Touchphonics Magnetic Tile set includes 193 Magtiles, three pocket charts with grommets for hanging, a Teacher’s Guidebook, a WordList and a Videotape. Durable and textured tile version also available (for Montessori sensorial method). May be used with Ruth Beechick’s 3Rs or with Alphaphonics (the book, not the package) or any program for that matter. Purchase online from If you would like to do phonics wordplay on a magnetic board, then I recommend the Hobnobbers Art easel, guaranteed to be indestructible (made of ceramic) extendable to four heights, very attractive and colorful, multipurpose (chalkboard, magnetic, usable with write and wipe pens, clip on top for attaching paint papers. Available from E

14. Fundamentals curriculum for 2-6 yr old from Accelerated Learning Systems. Part of an accelerated learning system. Read about it at Very systematic and parent-friendly instruction. Includes phonic cards, 400 key word cards, many more noun and verb word cards, spelling word lists, Bingo word and sentence cames. (However, this is MORE THAN a phonics program, 3Rs and much more included in this complete preschool program) Available from

15. The Sonlight Curriculum Language Arts curricula includes a full complement of resources, instructional materials and schedules for everything from phonics-based reading instruction over several levels/grades, to spelling, handwriting, grammar, and vocabulary development. The curriculum follows Ruth Beechick’s “Natural Language” approach to Language Arts instruction and thus teaches the language arts by means of exercises based on the readaloud or read-for-themselves books that the children are to study in the curriculum package. Dictation assignments highlight phonics rules and very basic issues of grammar. Kindergarten students are offered instruction in the letter symbols and related sounds for consonants and short-vowels (mat, cat, bat, Bob, rob, sob, etc.) and given short, controlled-vocabulary readers that reinforce the specific letter sounds and letter combinations that they have been studying. Children practice handwriting and work on their letter-sound recognition through a variety of activities: a “Go Fish!”-style letter-recognition game, a BINGO-style game of the same nature, and several letter-and-sound recognition worksheets included with the manual. First Grade continues phonics instruction using Sonlight’s I Can Read It! phonics book and the child will be reading the carefully-controlled, phonically-correct stories in I Can Read It!. Beginning with short-a words only in the first lesson, this book progresses very methodically through all the short vowels, consonant blends, and so forth. The stories in the book actually have plots with real conflicts, climaxes, and conclusions and characters who actually do things. This phonically-correct period of instruction is then closed with an original reader called The Best Trick for additional practice in basic decoding skills. After The Best Trick, fun but sometimes phonically-“incorrect” Easy Reader books such as Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, Stop That Ball!, The Cat in the Hat, are used to more delightful practice reading. First grade includes, besides the phonics text, a “Go-Fish!”-style game that concentrates on basic consonant blends, and a BINGO-style game having to do with letter blends, clusters and sight words. In Second Grade the pace picks up moving the child on to more advanced phonics. The Explode the Code workbook-oriented series and the Wordly Wise (vocabulary building) series are also offered as options. A workbook approach to language arts instruction, the MCP Word Study D book and EPS Wordly Wise series carry on from where “natural language” activities and Explode the Code books leave off. Order online at their website.

16. THE CARDEN READING METHOD An outstanding educator, Mae Carden opened the first Carden school in 1934 at 24 East 68th Street in New York City. Although Mae Cardon passed away, the Carden Reading Method and Curriculum continue to be used by a number of private schools in the US and elsewhere in the world. The Curriculum is an outstanding total language arts curriculum that assures comprehension by unifying the language arts; reading, spelling, speaking, listening, composition, and paragraph analysis and that emphasizes interrelationship of the content of subjects presented. It shows strengths in developing excellence of speaking vocabulary, diction and enunciation, clarity and fluency of expression. It uses a phonic basis to provide essential tools for decoding words while providing rich classical literature (including prose, poetry and drama) to be read to and by the student. It also teaches the application of rules of grammar, proper writing skills (Cursive writing, penmanship and composition). To find out about Carden’s SCHOOLING IN THE HOME WITH CARDEN program, refer to their website ordering page. Or contact: Carden Educational Foundation, P. O. Box 659, Brookfield, CT 06804-0659 /Call:  860-350-9885 /Fax:860-354-9812 /Email

17. I would recommend teaching the the Spell to Write and Read (SWR) phonograms to your children. I find the complete SWR program is too large a task for most people (myself included) but learning the 72 SWR phonograms would be a HUGE help to understanding English. — –Dana

18. Phonics Fundamentals NOT the same as the UK preschool program one above. This one is a reproducible workbook for reinforcing any other program. This one’s carried by Veritas Press

19. Hooked on Phonics is one of the systems to teach kids to read that I was very skeptical about investing hundreds and hundreds of doilars in, but when I saw it last weekend in Costco (Chiba) for ・8000, the 3 kits that go from kindergarten, first grade and second grade I decided to go for it. So far, I’m impressed with the simple, organized way it’s presented. And that the kids can sit down and do the exercises themselves with and without the computer.

20. Synthetic Phonics & Wordaloud Programs:

21. Sound Discovery is a high quality synthetic phonics literacy programme developed by Ridgehill publishing for the teaching of reading, spelling and writing. It is suitable for first-time learners, slow-to-start learners and dyslexic learners of all ages, including adults. It is also suitable for first time teaching of children when English is being taught as an additional language.

22. Phonics Pathways: Clear steps to Easy Reading and Perfect Spelling by Dolores C. Hiskes

Phonics programs in the UK:

23. Joyce Morris’ Phonics 44 program, and the initial teaching alphabet (i.t.a.). You purchase the Morris-Mntessori-Word List

24. Sue Lloyd s Jolly Phonics Popular in UK, and here in Japan too. Requires use of photocopiable masters

25. Johnston and Watson Fast Phonics First (a.k.a. Rigby Star Phonics) popular with schools

26. Ruth Miskin s Best Practice Phonics (for teacher) and Superphonics ABC the simplest, fastest way to teach your child to read

26. C. and G. McGuinness Phono-Graphix. (by same author of Reading Reflex that was reviewed above) “Phono-Graphix is quite simply, in my opinion, the best method of teaching reading that has been developed to date. Developed by Geoffrey and Carmen McGuiness of Read America, Phono-Graphix is a revolutionary way of teaching the English sound system to readers. Read more here“–Contact Nina

Plus, there are a number of similar programmes with different names, and, a new family of programmes that were built on the prototype and designed for the home, school, and clinic (Sound Reading Systems). The latter programmes stress writing as a way of learning, and weave the entire spelling code into the lessons from the outset. This has been found to dramatically speed up learningIn the US, there were the Lippincott and the Lindamood programmes, starting in the 1950s and 1960s.

Other miscellaneous resources:

You can also use this free Phonics Sounds free online resource for your reference. It provides audio sound for how the 44 sounds should come out.

See also Ann Zeis’ reviews of reading instruction materials

For many other resources listed, go to the page (prepared by the National Right to Read Foundation. Also for a large resource see Karl Bunday’s website for a discriminating selection of phonetic instructional materials. A good article regarding phonics and reading comprehension research can be found at the Edrev page.Note: When choosing phonics products, first determine hether you want to teach phonics decoding actvities alongside of writing. Many of the products tie phonics instruction and writing skills together especially in workbook style programs. Many teachers advocate that IT IS better to do both at the sam time, because the writing reinforces the reading. But some parents may have young eager reader on their hands and do not want to hold them back notwithstanding their immature motor skills. Please know that products like WRTR, Explode the Code and MCP Plaid Phonics, Veritas Press Phonics Museum use an integrated approach.

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