Debbie: Jingying contacted me some time ago from China – then recently she emailed me with updates about her son’s progress and I asked her if she would like to share her findings via my literacy blog. Sharing Jingying’s experience is for the benefit of others in China who may wish to teach their children the English language along with reading, spelling and handwriting.
Jingying very kindly sent me this description below:
“I wanted to share my experience with Systematic Synthetic Phonics. I’m currently an online English teacher, an owner of a really small online store, and most importantly, a mother of a four-year-old boy.
Four years ago, my son was born and I began to learn about children’s English and phonics. During that time, the phonics courses had just become popular in China, and there were many phonics teaching materials available on the market. After coming across Debbie’s programme, I was first drawn to her back-to-basics philosophy of paper and pencil, as opposed to the many game-based teaching materials on the market that do not provide deep and rich learning.
Later, I watched the video of Debbie’s sharing in the UK Reading Reform Foundation Conference 2015. I was so impressed. Then, I enrolled in the phonics training course. As I learned, I accumulated various questions and emailed them to Debbie, not expecting any response. But, however, Debbie replied and even arranged a personal call to address all my questions. I was touched by this graceful lady.
Later, Debbie made all her programmes free of charge. I was amazed again since that would not be something people I know (who are all about making money) would do.
I cannot express how much Debbie’s programme has helped me teach my son. “How the Brain Learns to Read” video provided me with a scientific basis for teaching the English language, and it also helped me understand how to teach my son Chinese.
In China, the mainstream idea is that children should start learning phonics only after they have a certain amount of vocabulary or after they are at least 5 years old. However, I began teaching my son the sounds each alphabet letter represents when he was just three and a half years old, while also exposing him to various English songs, cartoons, and books.
He now knows 26 sounds that 26 letters represent (putting qu together), and some more sounds and graphemes are taught incidentally. He just loves to play little spelling games using the letter blocks. I notice that he can easily correct himself to the correct sound when he learns new words. Like Debbie said, he has his ears tuned to the English sounds.
Second language learning is a long-term effort, and parents play an extremely important role. Thanks to Debbie’s programme, I enjoy teaching my son and witness his progress every day.
I long for a community where mothers like me can support each other and share ideas about teaching children to read. I am working hard to save money and hope to attend Debbie’s offline training program in the UK and meet Debbie in person someday.
With love and best wishes,
Debbie: It has been so heartwarming meeting Jingying via Zoom and learning about her adventure to teach her son!
The truth of the matter is that I have no idea how many people, of many different contexts, roles and countries, we have reached with our materials – particularly our free Alphabetic Code Charts, our free Phonics International programme, our free handwriting materials and guidance, and our free pre-school materials [Use the pre-school materials in settings like China, and as an option with nursery-aged children, before using full systematic synthetic phonics programmes.]
We do hear from people internationally and I answer everyone who emails me personally. I want to add to this post that I find it truly heartwarming to hear from people, and to learn that we have helped them in some way. Thank you sincerely to Jingying (well done to her and well done to her son), and thank you to anyone who takes the time to self-teach from our content and resources (not neglecting wider information in the public domain of others). Whilst we have provided the content and resources, it still takes a lot of time and effort of everyone to get on board with best use and to teach beginners and help strugglers.
Our self-study Phonics Training Online course that Jingying referenced is 20+ hours long. It is not necessary to do this course to be able to use effectively the Phonics International programme – this is for particularly interested and dedicated people! It is inexpensive at £20+ VAT for one person.
Our range of ready-made, hard copy materials such as the No Nonsense Phonics Skills series, our Phonics Reading Books, and resources such as Flash Cards, Sounds Mats, Frieze etc can be viewed at a glance via our No Nonsense Phonics page. This page of resources also leads to the main site for No Nonsense Phonics Skills and our ‘shop’ including information and training videos and PowerPoints which enable self-teaching for No Nonsense Phonics Skills. We developed the No Nonsense Phonics Skills series from the online Phonics International programme to be ‘pick up and go’ material for very busy teachers, teaching assistants, parents/carers and tutors. We even have the pupil books available via Amazon that we have entitled ‘Pick Up and Go Phonics‘. These have the same content as the NNPS Pupil Books 1 to 9. They are slightly more expensive but they save on postage. We also have eBook versions for our Phonics Reading Books series which might be the best option of overseas parents. [At the time of this post, we are still building up our reading books.]
The No Nonsense Phonics programme and the Phonics International programme are both validated as full ‘Systematic Synthetic Phonics’ programmes by the Department for Education (DfE) in England. Additionally, the DfE has validated Wand Phonics (by Wand Education) when used with either No Nonsense Phonics and/or Phonics International. I designed the content for the digital, interactive Wand Phonics body of work (with full audio and which schools can set up to be used in children’s homes) to be aligned with No Nonsense Phonics and the first half of the Phonics International programme. [The Floppy’s Phonics programme published by Oxford University Press is also validated by the DfE.]
Jingying also mentioned the UK Reading Reform Foundation conference of 2015. The theme of my talk was: Does it really matter if teachers do not share a common understanding about phonics and reading instruction? Of course the answer is, ‘Yes, it does matter!” You can see a wider range of information about this conference via the blog at the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction (do visit the Forum as well if you have any interest in events and developments internationally and also recommended reading and research findings).
If you are based in the United Kingdom, you may be interested to learn about the work of the UK Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) which also has a blog and a message forum. I was the newsletter editor of a hard copy version during my earlier pioneering days (over two decades ago), and whilst those early newsletters reflect the battle to achieve research-informed and classroom-informed reading instruction in England (calling upon international research), nevertheless it’s still ‘left to chance’ what teacher-training teachers received in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. So, it is really only England where official guidance can be claimed to be world-leading. And so the pioneering work of the RRF is not yet done!
To be honest, it’s looking like the work of ‘reading reform’ in the English language may never be fully accomplished – but we can do our best to support many teachers, parents/carers and learners in the meantime!