By Danielle Galvin
Australian author, Barbara Murray, is a passionate authority in teaching phonics to children, and believes it’s critical in helping build a foundation for successful reading, writing and spelling.
Ms Murray, a former primary school teacher and well-known author of the literacy program, Sound Waves, has recently released a beautifully illustrated boxed set of books aimed at children in the first year of primary school.
The set, called Sound Stories, is an introduction to help children develop an awareness of the 43 sounds, or phonemes, that make up Australian spoken English.
The Australian National Curriculum recommends that all Australian primary schools include phonemic awareness and synthetic phonics in their literacy program.
Ms Murray explained that phonemic awareness is initially innate.
“It comes naturally to children. They start with sounds when they are babies,” she explained.
“As they get to talk, they forget the individual sounds.
“All you are doing is refreshing their memory of the sounds they picked up originally.
“You don’t have to teach kids to talk, you do have to teach them to write.”
Sound Stories provides a story for every sound of Australian spoken English in the one set of books, with illustrations from Sarah Hardy.
Sound Waves is a resource used in classrooms all over Australia and in countries overseas.
Ms Murray had been teaching the phonemic approach in her classroom for 30 years, before coming up with the idea for Sound Waves.
“Teaching was my passion and a phonemic approach featured daily in all my classes across the whole primary school.
“ I loved developing a curiosity about language in my students.”
Ms Murray believes developing an understanding of phonemes doesn’t have to be daunting.
In fact it’s quite simple.
As an example, the “eer” sound is featured in a story called Tameer Nearly Disappears and follows the baby reindeer Tameer who disappears into icy water, only to be rescued by her fierce and fearless reindeer father.
Words in the story and illustrations that promote the “eer” sound include Tameer, reindeer, nearly, disappears, fearless, fierce, tearful, clear and cheer.
“I designed each ‘Sound Story’ so that delightful, engaging illustrations will entice children to observe, imagine, predict, draw conclusions and create a possible storyline as part of an open discussion with others present, before the story is read to them,” Ms Murray said.
“Discussion about the words that name and describe items and actions in the illustrations and the common sound heard in these words, follows.”