Activities for Mastering Phonics Skills

The Importance of Mastering Phonics

In our last post we discussed phonemic awareness and it’s critical importance to learning how to read. This week we will discuss phonics, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as, “a method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.” So, phonics further builds upon the foundation of phonemic awareness. Once your little one begins to correlate letters with sounds, they will begin building an important foundation for reading! Today Red Apple Reading shares several activities that will help your kiddo become a phonics master!



Beginning Activities

  • Practice letters with pictures:  Use letters with pictures that contain the letter sound to demonstrate sounds to your child. For example, show your child a flash card with a picture of a dog on it next to the letter d, and say the word “dog” out loud, emphasizing the /d/ sound.
  • Point out letters:  Point out letters within words in books, around the house, on signs, and so on, and explain the sounds those letters are making within the words. This phonics I-Spy bottle from The Imagination Tree is a fun way to sharpen this skill!
  • Introduce your child to phonics-related online media:  Let your child watch videos that demonstrate letter-sound relationships, and introduce your child to interactive phonics activities. If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to sign up for your free 14 day trial of Red Apple Reading.

Intermediate Activities

Once your child becomes more comfortable with the sounds that letters make, it’s time to help her connect the letter-sounds into words. Some of the best words to start with are CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. These are phonetically regular words (words you can sound out, as opposed to words that include silent or unusually pronounced letters) like “mat,” “big,” and “get”.

  • Buy or create CVC word puzzles: Find a commercially produced product, or simply create your own puzzle by writing out a CVC word and then dividing it into separate letters. Puzzles that include a picture of the word can help children connect the word and the letters to meaning. This cute nuts and bolts activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps your kiddos with their CVC words, but it also develops their fine motor skills!
  • Make a Letter Wall: Designate a spot in your home—perhaps the refrigerator door, or a bulletin board—and make it into a letter wall. Place magnetic or adhesive letters on the wall, and let your child create his or her own CVC words by moving the letters around. Check out No Time for Flashcards’ spin on this idea using a cookie sheet and letter magnets.
  •  Play writing games: If your child has begun to write some letters, you can begin to let him practice encoding (i.e. using knowledge of letters and letter sounds to write words). Play guessing games such as asking your child to write the letter that comes at the beginning of the word “bed.”

Advanced Activities

As your child’s developing reading skills continue to grow, you can build on these activities to include more advanced objectives. You can use many of the same resources as before such as flash cards, online activities, puzzles, but expand the material to include new and more complex aspects of phonological awareness:

  • Digraph and blend activities: Digraphs are two or more letters grouped together but making a single sound, for example “th” and “ch.” Blends are two or more consonants grouped together but making separate sounds, for example “br” and “gl.” There are several activities your child can do to practice recognizing digraphs and blends. Download this free, adorable diagraph activity from Make, Take, and Teach!
  • Blending and substitution games: Once a child can comfortably blend the letters “c” “a” “t” into “cat,” you can progress to more complicated words. For example, give your child the letters “f” “r” “o” “g” and let him or her practice blending those letters into a word. You can also introduce substitution activities, for example asking, “What happens when you take away the ‘r’ in “frog?”
  • Segmenting activities: Working in the opposite direction as the blending activities,   you can have your child start with a whole word, such as “block,” and break it into pieces. You can use the pieces to make a puzzle, or a flipbook with “-ock” at the end, or create a list of rhyming words (sock, rock, dock).

We hope these ideas will be helpful as you help your little one work on her phonics! Leave us a comment telling about your favorite phonics activity!

Phonemic Awareness and Its Critical Importance in Learning to Read

As parents, we want to know how we can help our children become successful readers. Here we will focus on the important foundational element of phonemic awareness and its importance in learning to read.

Simply put, phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate sounds within words. Mastering phonemic awareness is essential to becoming a successful reader.

According to Learning Rx, “Research has shown that a child’s awareness of the sounds of spoken words is a strong predictor of his or her later success in learning to read.” With this in mind, Red Apple Reading has compiled the following list of simple activities you can do with your child to facilitate the mastery of this important reading skill.

1.  Introduce syllables:  Helping your child recognize syllables is a great way of helping her understand that words are made up of different sounds. Clapping out the syllables and/or determining the number of syllables in a word helps your little one learn to isolate sounds.

One thing to keep in mind when practicing different sounds with your child is that individual phonemes are comprised of one sound only. For example, the /b/ sound in the letter “b” is a short sound, and should not be pronounced like “buh” or “beh.” When pronouncing letter sounds as a model for your child, try to keep each sound as distinct as possible—this will make it easier for your child to eventually blend multiple sounds together to make words.

2.  Teach songs and rhymes:  Children’s songs and rhymes help your kiddo learn to hear the natural rhythms of spoken language. Introduce your child to books and materials that focus on rhymes. As with word families, rhymes help children hear the phonetic connections between words with similar spellings and sounds. For more fun, rhyming activities and resources, check out this series of posts from Fun-A-Day.

3.  Discover beginning, middle and ending sounds:  Learning to segment words into their individual sounds is a great way to develop phonemic awareness. Start with any given word and ask your child which sounds she hears at the beginning, middle, and end of each word. Begin with short Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words such as “cat,” “bug,” “map,” etc. When your child masters these simple words, you can move on to more complex ones.

4.  Play phoneme isolation games:  Give your child practice with hearing sounds within words. For example, you can go on a “sound hunt” around the home, finding all of the objects that have the /s/ sound in them (stove, soap). Discover how the folks at Kids Activities Blog used Alphabet Sound Tubs to develop this skill!

5.  Practice with “word families”:  Read books to your child or introduce your child to videos that focus on a particular word family, or words that have the same ending (e.g. words ending in “-an”: can, fan, Dan, man, pan, tan). There are countless ways to practice word families. Start with these creative activities from

Once your little one has grasped phonemic awareness, he will be well on his way to becoming a successful reader! If you want to learn more about this important skill, check out our Open House Video #1 on YouTube.

Posted in All

10 Tips to Promote Literacy at Home

Promoting Literacy in the HomeMerriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as, “the ability to read and write”. The definition may be simple, but the effects of being literate are huge! To a great extent, a person’s literacy determines how successful they will be as well as how easily they are able to navigate the details of everyday life. As parents we want our children to experience this type of success. How can we promote literacy in our homes? Red Apple Reading has ten tips for how you can help nurture the growth of literacy in your little one!

  1. Read to Them – It’s never too early to read aloud to your child. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to children in infancy! This special time actually promotes healthy brain development and serves to bond parent and child closer together.
  2. Read in Front of Them – If parents “practice what they preach” about the importance of reading, it sends a loud and clear message to their kids that reading is, in fact, valuable.
  3. Make Space for Reading and Writing – One way parents can make literacy appealing to children is by providing an inviting place to read and write. A desk with pens, pencils, markers and paper nearby will encourage your little one to hone his writing skills. A small bookshelf filled with books, with a comfy beanbag close by, will promote reading.
  4. Take Advantage of Windows of Opportunity – Parents should look for natural opportunities throughout the day to support literacy development. Have your kiddo write the shopping list for you, read the traffic signs as you drive, and name all the things in the kitchen that start with the letter P.
  5. Be Involved with Homework – If your little one is school-age, then be available to help with homework. Children often feel overwhelmed and unsure about their assignments. Your presence can help to alleviate their anxiety as well as remind them that you place a high value on their education.
  6. Visit the Library – Frequent visits to your public library go a long way in nurturing literacy growth in your child. Take advantage of story hours, book borrowing, and other activities offered by your local library branch.
  7. Celebrate Successes – Everyone likes a pat on the back every now and then. Be sure to celebrate when your kiddo spells a hard word correctly, finishes her book, or writes her name for the first time!
  8. Turn off the Television – Kids often need a little extra encouragement to pick up a book or pencil and paper. Parents can help this process by turning off the television at certain hours of the day. You may be surprised at what your kid finds to do once the TV is off!
  9. Play Around with Words – Young children learn best while playing. Make sure you provide toys that encourage literacy development. Remember, these don’t need to be the latest tech toys with all the bells and whistles. Simple toys such as ABC blocks and Magna Doodles will offer plenty of learning stimulation!
  10. Check out Red Apple Reading – If you haven’t checked out Red Apple Reading’s online reading program, you’ll want to visit our website today. For a limited time we are offering our full program at a 40% discount! Your kids will love the fun games and you will love the results!

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall!


Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall


Although fall officially begins on September 23rd this year, for most of us Labor Day signals the end of summer and the unofficial beginning of fall. While it is sad to say goodbye to the lazy days of summer, let’s keep in mind all of the great things we will be saying hello to! Here are five things we are excited about here at Red Apple Reading:




  • School is in Session – Although I love a relaxed summer schedule, I have to admit by the time September rolls around, I’m not altogether sad to see my kiddos heading off for school! With the new school year comes structure and routine, and let’s face it, that’s not only good for our children, it’s good for us parents as well!
  • Fall Athletics and Activities – I live in the south and around here, football is king. So this weekend we anticipate the beloved beginning of college football. As a parent of four kids though, my focus will be marching band and soccer practice. There’s something about picking out your child in the midst of the halftime show and realizing that she totally rocks that geeky band uniform! And who doesn’t love watching the entire 6-year-old team clumped together around the soccer ball? They’ll learn strategy soon enough – and it won’t be nearly as cute!
  • Cooler Weather – Labor Day weekend also reminds us that cooler weather is around the corner! Waking up to a brisk morning is good for my soul. Mild, pleasant days are a welcome change from the summertime heat (did I mention I live in the South?). Plus, chilly fall evenings mean Saturday nights spent eating s’mores with the kids around a backyard fire!
  • Comfort Food – Perhaps one of the best things about fall is the food! Sure, there’s no rule to what you can eat during the summer, but it somehow seems wrong to eat a bowl of chili when it’s 95 degrees outside. So bring on the chicken and dumplings, vegetable soup, and apple crisp – it’s fall!
  • Turning Leaves – It happens every year and it never ceases to please me – the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of the turning leaves! There’s something about the beautiful backdrop of colorful trees that makes the outdoors even more appealing. The multi-colored leaves may only last a few weeks, but look on the bright side: once they fall off the trees, the kids can rake them into piles and jump in them!

If you’re mourning the end of the summer season, cheer up! There’s so much to look forward to with the return of fall. Thank goodness that reading is an enjoyable and productive past time whatever the season! Why not grab a book now and cuddle up with your kiddo and spend some quality time reading? It’s always a good idea!

Fall is also a great time to sign up for our full Red Apple Reading Program. For a limited time you can save up to 40%. Visit our website and discover how Red Apple Reading makes serious learning seriously fun!

How to Help Older Children Choose Reading Material

How to Help Older Children Choose Reading Material - Red Apple ReadingWould your child rather visit the dentist than pick up a book? It can be challenging for parents to find reading material that captures their children’s attention – especially older children!

I have four kids and their reading interests are as varied as their personalities! My youngest is a question generator. He enjoys non-fiction books that get to the bottom of his inquiries. My 11 year old has trouble completing chapter books but loves comic book style reads such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate. My 14 year old loves fantasy and historical fiction while my 17 year old enjoys the dystopic genre of books.

All kids are different, and with a little effort you can help yours discover enjoyable reading material. Red Apple Reading has a few suggestions to get you started!

1) Interest Inventory – The first and easiest suggestion for helping your kiddo find reading material is to simply think of things that interest her. This suggestion may seem a bit obvious; but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the answer that is “staring us in the face”. If your kid would rather watch WWE than read a book, find all the books you can about the wrestling profession. Yes, there are plenty out there! Maybe your child enjoys playing with Legos. Guess what? There are several books available featuring Lego characters as well as Lego history.

2) Be a Benevolent Dictator – If you really have a hankering that your kiddo would enjoy a particular book if he gave it a chance, then try instituting a “three chapter rule”. Tell your reluctant reader that he must read three chapters of the book. If he still doesn’t like it, then let him put it away. He may discover that the story had a slow start but eventually “hooked” him!

3) Survey Says… – One of the best ways to help your older child find material she would like to read is to ask friends for recommendations. Next time you are with a group of parents, ask them what their kiddos are currently reading. There’s a good chance that someone has unearthed a gem of a book that you and your child haven’t discovered yet!

4) Think Outside the Book – If you’re having trouble finding any book your kid will read, then it’s time to “think outside the book”! There is a variety of reading material available that isn’t in “book form”. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, and graphic novels are all great reading resources!

5) Challenge Accepted! – Many kids find a good challenge to be inspiring. Think about how you can turn reading into a fun competition. For instance, you could challenge your child to read one book from each of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal system. Or you could see how many books he could read from the Banned and Challenged Classics list. Be sure to offer an incentive to spice up the offer!

 Don’t grow weary of encouraging your child to read! Although it may be challenging to find the right reading material for your kiddo, your persistence will eventually pay off. Reading is a gift that will yield rewards far into their future! If you want to learn more about how Red Apple Reading helps kids become successful readers then check out our website. Our online program provides serious learning that’s seriously fun!