There are three books I’ve found that are particularly useful.
The ABC’s and All Their Tricks by Margaret M. Bishop
The Writing Road to Reading
Now, none of these books are geared towards children, but instead are geared towards parents and teachers to assist their child through the learning process.
Something important to note is, a parent who is fluent in English and has a good grasp on phonetical awareness and phonics rules can teach their child to read in a matter of months given the child is mentally ready to begin learning. Now, “teach your child to read” isn’t as simple as just learning Phonics. There must first be a foundation of English understanding, which has been coined as an “Auditory Library”, that any child who is learning English (or any other language) needs in order to understand the language.
This Auditory Library is built up by hearing, listening, and taking statistics on the language that is being spoken to the child. The best period of time to build up this auditory library is between the ages of 2 and 7. After this “golden period”, it isn’t impossible to learn a new language, (I started learning Chinese at age 22, and am fluent today) but it does become more and more difficult with every year that passes. (My Chinese is as good as it is today because I told myself Chinese is need and not a hobby, if I want to continue living in China) This is because a child’s mind has already decided “My language is…”, and hears anything “unknown” as foreign. (I spent my entire first year in China under this understanding that Chinese is far too difficult to learn and I’ll never be able to learn it.)
So how do we aquire this Auditory Library? It’s not so complex, really. You just need to speak to and read to your child every day. (I would walk down streets, sit in coffee shops and just listen to people talking in Chinese). It doesn’t need to be long, but the more time you spend talking to your child, the more he will understand. Reading can be as short as 20 minutes a day, but what’s more important about the length of time is the routine. (I made it a point to study Chinese characters for 20 minutes to an hour a night for the majority of my third year in China. By the end of the fourth year, my literacy level was well enough to read most anything, though i still come in contact with words I don’t know today.) You must read every day, at the same time. This puts your child in in the mood and mentally ready to read, rather than spontaneously saying “Hey, stop what you’re doing and let’s read a book!”
Once you feel that your child is paying attention to the words and how they are formed, he may be playing around with words like saying “the gall is on the gable”, just to play with you, you will know he’s ready to begin phonics training.
You can start by playing along with him by changing the consonant sounds or vowel sounds of words to make them into other words. Around this time, you should get (if you don’t already have) a set of Alphabet blocks (the kind that are formed into each alphabet letter). You can grab a few letters and make a word, C-A-T. Hey, “cat”! and let him just play around with the letters.
Continue reading to your child every night and pick out words with increasing difficulty that you know how to sound out. And if you don’t know how to sound it out, and your child asks you “how do you say this?/what does this say?” use one of the books above to help you understand how to sound them out.
Any words that don’t follow the rules should be written on index cards and stored in a box of “Words to Learn”. Some of these are Sight Words, others are Foreign Words. Later on, you’ll realize many of these are also called “High-Frequency Words”.
As others have stated, the best resource for teaching kids phonics is yourself. However, if you were never taught Phonics, or you think English is a confusing mess that doesn’t make any sense, then you can refer to the books above to help sort things out and help you to teach your child how to read.
That being said, many children actually figure the phonics rules out themselves, and when asked, they say “I just guessed”, which is totally normal, because English is in fact fairly logically laid out, just the trouble begins when you tell yourself “ough” has so many different pronunciations, this makes no sense! When in fact, that’s entirely true, but “ough” only occurs in 33 words.
Just remember: it’s not all about Phonics. Reading has three main purposes: entertainment, information, and meaning. If your child is not reading for any of these three purposes, or feels he is learning “to pass a test”, then your child is not in fact learning, and you’re doing something wrong.
Good Luck! and take it easy. Every child learns at his or her own pace, and no two children picks up the same phonics bits at the same rate or time as another.