by Mary Follin

6 key considerations when reviewing the best phonics programs.

Looking for the best phonics programs? Many parents are doing exactly the same thing, since the responsibility for teaching your child to read belongs to both you and your child’s teacher, especially if your child’s school system is struggling for resources. And if you’re a homeschooling parent, you’re already on it, right?

You’ve most likely done some research on the best phonics programs, but the information can be difficult to sift through. There are a lot of options, and it’s not always clear how a program does what it promises to do. Many of them offer a variety of activities that might be helpful, but how can you tell? So for starters, make sure the phonics program you choose offers you a free trial so you can take a look for yourself.

​Phonics is actually easy to learn—and to teach. If a phonics program sounds difficult to use, it probably is. To simplify your search, let’s start by figuring out what you don’t want in your phonics program. Take a look below at the 6 things to watch out for when choosing the best phonics programs for you and your family. Have fun and enjoy teaching your child to read!

6 “BEWARES” When Choosing The Best Phonics Programs

Why is phonics so important? Science tells us that teaching children to read by associating sounds and patterns with letters is the best way to teach most children to read. A lot of reading instruction has shifted to memorizing words, using pictures to guess the words, and context to figure out what a word is. While this might work for some children, others get lost. After all, not everybody is good at guessing games!

So what happens when a child gets confused? This is where a psychological resistance to learning how to read sets in. (I’m not good at this. I hate reading. I’ll never be able to read.) This resistance is difficult to overcome, so ideally, let’s avoid it in the first place! Clearly you’ve decided your child is going to learn to read using phonics, regardless of how reading is being taught in your child’s school.

Good choice. Next step is to review the best phonics programs on the market, so start with these six ‘bewares.’

​1) A Phonics Program that ‘Jumps Around’

The beauty of phonics is that it’s a linear, systematic method of teaching a child to read. When using a phonics-based approach, it’s easy to teach the basics and track your child’s progress. If a program has too many ‘paths’ to choose from at each session, it might be difficult for you to tell if learning is taking place.

2) The Best Phonics Programs Won’t Have Long Lessons

Because phonics involves repetition at the beginning, lessons that take more than five minutes can be tiresome for your little one. Five minutes a day is plenty of time to spend on it. Within weeks, your child will ‘get’ the code (phonics!), and skill-building will move more rapidly. If you have to schedule too much time each day, you may find your child becomes reluctant to engage—and you suddenly become too busy to fit it in. The best phonics programs will always leave them (and yourself) wanting more!

3) Tons of Screen Time

Feeling guilty about how much time your child is spending alone in front of screens? Is it necessary to add more? I don’t think so. By keeping lessons to 5 minutes or less, you can minimize screen time, and your lessons will quickly move ‘off screen’ and onto napkins in restaurants and books at the library. The best phonics programs teach in short ‘segments,’ so one micro-lesson per day is plenty.

The best phonics programs are the ones that teach a child to read!

4) Passive Learning

If a phonics program relies too heavily on cartoons, demonstrations, and entertainment, your child will have the experience of being ‘spoon-fed’ his or her learning. By considering the best phonics programs to engage your child interactively, your child will not only learn how to read, he or she will learn how to learn.

5) Isolated Learning

Many of the online phonics programs are designed for kids to use by themselves. Here is where the best phonics programs stand out. When you work with your children, they get the message that reading is important to you. (And as a lifetime bonus, they’ll always remember who taught them how to read!)

6) The Best Phonics Programs Have Audio

Phonics associates sounds with letters and groups of letters; it’s critical to pronounce the sounds correctly. Most people don’t know how to pronounce the individuals sound of each letter, so the best phonics programs will necessarily have an audio component. Most do, but if it’s workbook-style learning and you aren’t confident you know how to pronounce the sounds, ask your child’s teacher or a homeschooler to cue you in.

There are many phonics programs to choose from, but as long as you choose a direct-instruction, systematic phonics-based approach, you’re using what science tells us is the best way to teach a child to read. Have fun with it!

Photo Credits: Pexels, Unsplash



​Watch the video to find out how Teach Your Child to Read works and how easy it is to use. With our 7 DAY FREE TRIAL, you can easily decide if this is one of the best phonics programs for you and your child.

YOU decide which programs are the best phonics programs!

Teach Your Child to Read

Founder and creator Mary Follin started her career as a systems engineer with IBM. She’s worked in product development, market research, and more recently provides marketing consulting to professional services firms. Beyond creating Teach Your Child to Read, she is also the author of Ethyr, winner of the the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. ​Mary is also author, with Erika Guerrero, of the advice column ASK MOM, featured in Fredericksburg Parent & Family magazine and winner of a 2021 Parenting Media Association award. ​​

Photo Credits: Pexels, Unsplash