Teaching my child to read using traditional VS technology-based resources

Long before Kai and Kei were born,  my husband and I knew that we play an important role in fostering a love of reading and writing in our children.  Teaching literacy also happens be our passion, and we longed to share my passion with my kids.  My goal is not to ensure they learn to read before ‘everybody else’, but rather to build a strong foundation in reading and writing that will help them later on in life.

I read research papers, followed preschool/kindergarten teachers on Instagram, and look for ideas on Pinterest, all to get some inspirations and ways on how I could get started.  I have taught kindergarten before:  Following a school curriculum that assumes a child is at a certain level when they enter school is very different from supporting literacy at home.  Working with your own child gives you so much more flexibility to speed up or slow down when there is a need to in their learning journey.  It also allows you to personalise your child’s lesson to sure they have fun and are appropriately challenged,  Kai was our first child, and I experimented many different strategies with him.  Most of the activities I did with Kai, I also did with my second child Kei, but I had the benefit of incorporating other strategies because they are, after all, different individuals.

Time has passed. Kai is now 4, and Kei is turning 3 I’d like to highlight a few resources (traditional and technology-based)  that I used to get me where I am today.

This blog will focus only on READING.

There are many articles and personal blogs that detail how to support early literacy so I will not cover topics that most parents already know or can easily research online.  Here are some offline activities that I have done with my boys on which I will not elaborate. These activities support and reinforce learning.


My own philosophy on teaching is that learning happens when the process is fun and engaging, and that it involves repetition. I am not the kind of mother who would create 10 different activities in order for my child to learn the letter ‘a’.  I taught letter-sounds to Kai and Kei relying on 2 main online resources.  I cannot stress enough that repetition helps us learn. Using the same resource not only provides predictability and structure, but every time the child does that same task, they get a new level of mastery and revel in the comfort that comes with that achievement.


One of the three resources that I have used consistently, religiously, regularly with Kai AND Kei  is… STARFALL.  I started using this when both kids turned 2.  This website and later turned app is phenomenal.  The approach that “At Starfall, children have fun while they learn,” is consciously embedded in the activities and games throughout the app.  I especially like the layout of the app (apart from the clashing colours), which shows Starfall’s emphasis on teaching phonemic awareness, systematic sequential phonics and common sight words.

Just watch this video and you can see that this app is clear and simple.  You pick a letter of the alphabet and click on it to hear its sound, examples and usage.

The app’s layout and features are uncomplicated and effective.

Initially when I use this app, I started by first introducing the letters which, in my opinion, are easier to recognize than others.  These are letters a, b, c (since they are always found in book titles), s, o, t, h, w and then followed by the rest of the alphabets.  I use it for a few minutes a day, introducing no more than one alphabet a day while reviewing a maximum of two previous ones, simply by watching the animations and imitating the sounds.  I do this on and off, not so too systematically but whenever we have a moment of iPad time.  I didn’t test them on what they know, I didn’t create any other activities to reinforce for the first 6 months. I just let them watch, and learn.   Somehow when they were by around 2 years plus,  I felt they understood these letters of which we sing the Alphabet Song, have their own sounds.

The Starfall app provides a springboard for Kai and Kei to learn other aspects of phonics. I have known this app for 10 years, and still would recommend it to anyone teaching their child to read.

Starfall with scrabble tiles


I did not need to use Jolly Phonics to teach Kai his letter-sounds. He learned them through casual browsing of the Starfall app. With Kei though, I wanted a more kinesthetic approach (involving movements) to learning his alphabet sounds.  He used Starfall app to get acquainted with letter sounds just like Kai, but I decided to follow a phonics program loosely.  And so, I chose Jolly Phonics because of its intuitive actions, catchy songs, and the many resources to support the program.  It is ideal for Kei who is the more active child. I started by borrowing a few books from a teacher-friend accompanied by a Spotify list of all the Jolly Phonics song (link here).  (Do note that for Jolly Phonics, you must teach the letter and sounds in a specific order, not alphabetically). Here is a YouTube video that features all 42 sounds and actions (here)

However, it became cumbersome to go through the Jolly Phonics books while scrolling through Spotify to play the right song. I also needed reminders on the lyrics and action for each letter. Therefore, I did some research and decided to download 2 Jolly Phonics apps:

  1. Jolly Phonics SONGS app (here):
Screenshot 2020-04-30 at 5.32.42 PM

The layout of each letter is exactly like the book.  The alphabet/sounds are categorised into Group 1-7.

Here are the sounds in each group:

Screenshot 2020-05-06 at 12.51.59 PM

On the app, you see the pictures, you see the letter, and you hear the song.   I now use this app mainly for Kei (my second child).  I love it because Kei can click on the letter, and then it takes you right to the song page.  Simple as that! As a parent, I’d download this to be familiar with all the songs.

This is a cute video of Kei who is turning 3, performing the Letter W.   He has already learned the sounds from a-z all from home!

     2.  Jolly Phonics app (here):

This app’s interface is also simple (as shown the left of the photo grid below). However, there are more functions on this app than the previous one.  As you click on the letter, you see the same layout for each alphabet: Revision, Story, Action, Sound, Formation (for writing), Word Bank, Sounding, Writing and Song.

I use this app mainly for Kai. I find the Formation, Word Bank and Flash Card features especially useful.  Formation shows an animation that teaches you how to write the alphabet, and Word Bank lists out examples of the words with that sound.

Since I did not purchase the entire set Jolly phonics books, I used the app ‘s WORD BANK feature for reference to create these ‘offline’ cards with which we can practice.

Word Family Jolly Phonics1

For most those who who might not be familiar with Jolly Phonics, you can visit the official website to download a cheatsheet which shows all the actions for the 42 sounds (here).  You may also want to watch the videos I have recently created for each letter sound  on my YouTube channel here

Here is a video of Kai using his knowledge of the “ou” to read the word “found”


Teaching your child

One last resource I used to teach my older child to read, is this book that was recommended by another mom: 

This is Kai’s latest lesson. He does well for a 4 and a half years old:

I will write a review of this book, and how I have incorporated with digital resources, in another post.

For now, you can see how technology plays an important role in my literacy journey for my children.  The apps which I have used provide structure and consistency, which complements my own teaching appropriately.   If technology is used effectively with a purpose in mind, it can be integrated with traditional methods of learning reading and writing, and enhances the learning experience of both parents and children.

Updated June 1st, 2020

I have since then finished this book “Teach your Child to read in 100 Easy Lesson” with Kai.  The second part to this blog is (here)


If you plan on using Jolly Phonics to teach your child letter-sounds, do subscribe to my channel (here):

Published by Ms Claudia L. Kimura

Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015 Primary school teacher, technology coordinator Not just a regular mom, but a teacher-mom Mom of 2 boys, stepmom of 3 boys

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