Jolly Phonics and Early Literacy (Part 1)


R’s Early Literacy Development

R has been showing an interest in books lately and I can begin to see her put her finger under each word, mimicking reading (I call it “play read”). I think it is a wonderful time to explore how I can develop this further and also hopefully connect with others who have similar experiences. Basically, we started out looking through Jolly Phonics at 15 months. We picked up the pace of doing it everyday at around 18 months and at 25 months, she knows all the letter sounds (42) in English but has not shown an interest or ready-ness to blend or pick out other letter sounds away from the books such as signs around her.

I am curious to know when they will be ready (although I know each child is different)- or what the average age onset is for blending. I remember the literature that I have read puts it at 3. I was hoping that since we have gone through the letter sounds, maybe she would progress onto blending but no. She’s just not ready yet.

Early Literacy is not about Reading Early

Early literacy skills are developed during the preschool years and do not necessarily equate to “reading at an earlier age”.

The skills that are focused on include *:

  1. Phonological awareness- understanding the different sounds, that words have syllables and phonemes (42+ in the English language)
  2. Alphabet knowledge- recognising the 26 letters and knowing their names
  3. Letter writing- knowing how to write letters
  4. Print knowledge- includes decoding and alphabet recognition
  5. Oral language- spoken language, grammar and vocabulary

Before my current occupation, I was a literacy instructor and studying to qualify for a mid-career change in Speech Language Pathology. So I’ve always had an interest in speech and learning and literacy was one of my pet subjects. When I became a mum myself, I thought that I would just try (very casually with not much expectations) teaching R what I taught other kids using this really popular phonics system known as Jolly Phonics.

Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics started in the UK and is used by the majority of schools there as its literacy programme. It is also popular in Australia and I personally decided on using this system as I was very impressed by the pedagogy and accessibility of it as a trainer learning it.

Basically the system is about teaching that letters (alphabets) have their equivalent sounds. You do not learn the names of the letters but its sound. Each letter has an accompanying action which is part of a story and this is really fun for younger kids like mine.

Jolly Phonics in a nutshell:

  • learn an action to accompany each letter sound
  • begin with the most commonly used letters in English, including vowels
  • teach lowercase letters first
  • 7 groups of letter sounds – making it a total of 42 that represent the main sounds in English
  • children can start blending simple (putting words together) after they have done the 1st book
  • covers tricky words – words that cannot be decoded by how they have learnt to read the others (meaning they cannot apply the code)
  • learn letter formation by the supplementary materials



*Barbara Goodson and Carolyn Layzer, Abt Associates, with Peggy Simon and Chris Dwyer, RMC Research Corporation. Early Beginnings: Early Literacy Knowledge and Instruction. National Institute of Literacy. 2009.(


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s