Meet Phoneme Fred

15th September 2000 at 01:00
SUPERPHONICS BOOKS 1 AND 2. By Ruth Miskin. Hodder, pound;10.99pound;4.99 each

The latest in phonics-based learn-to-read programmes is not, as it claims, the first of its kind for parents, but it is the best. But I would have liked more stress on the importance of sharing books alongside the learning of phonics. Still, the approach is good. It helps children to recognise phonemes within words so that letter sounds make sense in relation to print.

It begins with the alphabet in Book 1, which also includes the three digraphs, ch, sh and th. Children are asked to identify sounds at the beginning of words, since children need to be taught that each word is made up of separable sounds. The formula: "Hear the sound; Read the letter with the aid of a pictogram; Write the letter" is firmly adhered to.

As the stages progress, the emphasis reains on sound - on rhyming, blending and splitting words into their component parts. This approach is made user-friendly by way of Phoneme Fred, who can speak and hear only separate phonemes. Exploring print in this way, the child is going to feel confident that it makes sense.

Sound theory and Miskin's own successful practice underpin the approach. It is presented very accessibly, without being simplistic. If one is occasionally reminded of similar approaches (Letterland, for example), in the way digraphs are explained, or of Ehri's pictograms, why not? Are we not to learn from each other? So long as Superphonics is not seen as an alternative to reading and sharing books with children, but as a complementary way of exploring and developing children's friendship with print, it can do nothing but good.

Nicholas Bielby


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