Phonics is a way of teaching children to read skillfully. They are taught how to:
recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
blend those sounds together from left to right to make a word.
Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they see or hear. This is the first important step to learning to read.
Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 5 to 7.
Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and read for enjoyment.
Children who have been taught phonics also tend to read more accurately than those taught using other methods, such as ‘look and say’. This includes children who find learning difficult to read.
Please see www.gov.uk/government/collections/phonics for more information.
Taken form the Government 'Learning to read through phonics' information for parents sheet.