“Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” was probably the first time I had heard the phrase “phonics” being used. Hooked on Phonics was a Learn to Read product developed in the 1980s by a father who wanted to help his son overcome reading problems. The companies catch phrase became popular in the 1990’s, and was widely used in pop culture to make tongue-in-cheek jokes.
Today, the term “Phonics” gets tossed around in education circles so often, it almost seems impossible to have any discussion about reading without the word being brought up. Yet when I pose the simple question, “what is phonics?”, to those using it, I get such a wide range of responses. In the nearly ten years I’ve been working in education, I have spent many countless hours helping parents understand what this term really means and its role in their child’s reading development.
Phonics is simply letter-sound correlation, or the relationship between the letters and the sounds those letters make. For example, a child could recognize the letter b but not know the sound the letter b makes. Therefore, this student has letter recognition down for the letter b but doesn’t have the necessary phonic’s skills to associate its sound.