Jolly Phonics Celebrates International Literacy Day

Synthetic phonics is growing worldwide and, as the world celebrates International Literacy Day, there is an increasing focus on starting literacy programmes at an early age.

Chigwell, United Kingdom, September 06, 2008 --( A synthetic phonics revolution around the world is improving literacy, particularly among the very young as teachers find that it is the best way to teach children to read.

Synthetic phonics, once considered the outsider in the literacy debate, has now become acceptable worldwide, often in the face of policy makers. As literacy workers celebrate International Literacy Day [September 8th], Jolly Phonics, one of the leading synthetic phonics programmes, reports a rise in interest from a growing number of countries, from Australia and the Far East to Nigeria, the Caribbean and Latin America. Countries like Spain are using the programme to teach young children English, with remarkable results.

Increasingly the focus is on targeting young children before they enter primary school as research shows that those who know all their letter sounds by age 5 have a more advanced reading age by the end of primary school.

Jolly Phonics is multi-sensory, using actions, puppets, songs and games to teach children to read. They learn all the 42 letter sounds in quick succession and from there can begin to put together – blend – them in order to read and sound them out – or segment them – in order to spell. The programme has been adopted in just over two thirds of British primary schools and research in Scotland shows pupils who use it are up to three years ahead of their peers in their reading at the end of primary school. In recent years, its international sales have begun to outstrip those in the UK.

Jolly Phonics trainers, most of them school teachers, are based in around 40 different countries and the number is growing all the time. Recently, six trainers – one from the Gambia and five from the UK - gave training sessions to teachers throughout the Gambia after the Government expressed interest in trialling Jolly Phonics in state schools.

Jolly Phonics was devised in 1992 by Sue Lloyd, a teacher in a British primary school. At the time the education establishment in the UK and around the world was hostile to phonics. This is now reversing as Governments, including the UK and US, are adopting a phonics-led approach.

Teachers have always been more enthusiastic about phonics than policy makers. “Basically, Jolly Phonics has been promoted over the years, not by advertising or adviser support, but by word of mouth,” says Lloyd. “For once, the ideas were passed from teacher to teacher, rather than from the usual advisers and educationalists.”

But there is still resistance, particularly with regards to the age at which children should be taught phonics. In the UK, this has crystallised around the new Early Learning Curriculum.

Sara Wernham, one of Jolly Phonics’ authors, says most five year olds are very capable and eager to learn to read. She adds that a lot of the opponents of synthetic phonics paint it as rote learning when Jolly Phonics is multisensory with an emphasis on fun. Opponents argue that learning should be based on play at an early age. Wernham says: “Some do not consider it appropriate to teach young children anything. Everything should be discovered through play by each individual child, and they should not be burdened with having to learn anything."

The mood internationally is changing in favour of synthetic phonics because research shows it works. Gertrude Niles, education officer for Carriacou and Petite Martinique in Grenada, has seen the results of children in Grenada improve significantly since she introduced Jolly Phonics to the curriculum. She says: “I apologise to the older children of Carriacou and Petite Martinique that we did not teach them to read as well as we could have. But then we did not know the best way to teach children to read.”

For more information, contact Mandy Garner on 0208 501 0405 or email

Jolly Learning
Mandy Garner
44 208 501 0405