Budget beginner phonics

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This term the cutest little Grade Prep boy joined one of my early literacy groups at school. He was pretty clueless about sounds and letters, reading and spelling, and seemed to think he was just there for a laugh and to get a few stickers.

However, after a solid team effort, he’s finally learnt to recognise most of the letters of the alphabet, and is starting to sound out a few words.

Unfortunately, he is still well behind most of his classmates.

Holiday catch-up home program

This little boy’s mum wants to help him catch up over the holidays, so they came to see me at my clinic for some suitable activities.

They already have an iPad, so I’ve recommended some apps and iBooks, as well as paper-based activities and games for him to use.

I was pretty pleased with the varied, cheap-as-chips home program we worked out for him, so I thought I’d tell you about it, in case you know a family with an iPad and:

  • A child aged five or six who has done a year or two of school, but still can’t read/spell, or
  • A child who is starting school next year who is keen to get a head start on literacy.

Here’s my suggested budget beginner phonics home program for little kids:

iPad Apps

Preschool University Spelling Magic 1    (free trial version) $1.99
Preschool University Reading Magic 1  (free trial version) 99c
Preschool University Sentence Reading Magic    (free trial version) $2.99
Pocketphonics $2.99
Phonics Bingo 99c
Little Finder ABC free
Howie FInding Vowel $2.99
Oz Phonics Intro to Reading  (use Sound to Letter and later activities) $1.99
Little Reader (free trial version) (NB turn off “Other 3 letter words” in control panel) 99c
Little Speller  (free, turn off “Other 3 letter words” in control panel) 99c
Little Stars Word Wizard free
Kids Crosswords (free trial version) 99c
Bob Books 1 (Android version is here) $1.99
Word family sorts (not available in 2022) $1.99
First Letters and Phonics Lite free
Starfall Learn To Read $2.99
First Grade Reading Program $1.99
BlobbleWriteHD free
WriteOn Phonics 99c

Spelling/writing workbook (download as a pdf and print)

Spelfabet Level 1 workbook in Comic Sans font

(Now supplied with a parent cheat sheet)


Movable alphabet (download as a pdf, print, laminate and cut up)

Spelfabet movable alphabet in Comic Sans font

(Supplied with 16 pages of word sequences to make)


Games (all but Milo’s are pdf downloads you print, laminate and cut up)

Milo’s Read and Grab game – yellow or light green $29.95 plus P&P
Spelfabet Level 1 Race Game – First Sounds $5
Spelfabet Level 1 Race Game – Last Sounds $5
Spelfabet Level 1 Race Game – Middle Sounds $5


South Australia SPELD’s Phonic Books for iBooks (can also be read on a computer) free
Oxford Owl eBooks (use the simplest ones from the following schemes):

TOTAL $98.79

Additional costs/resources

Add to this about another $20 for postage of the Milo game, and for downloading, printing, laminating and assembling the Spelfabet materials, unless you can print and laminate them at school, and perhaps also bind the workbook on their binding machine. Most schools have a colour printer and laminator, plus coloured paper laid on, and they are usually keen to encourage and assist everyone to help their children with literacy.

You need just over 50 white A4 sheets of paper for the workbook, cheatsheet, alphabet and word sequences, and 9 sheets each of red, orange and green coloured paper for the games (but use other colours if you can’t find these ones, they just match the alphabet colours). You also need 10 laminating pouches for the games and alphabet, and a roll of magnetic tape for the alphabet. Magnetic tape costs about $5 in places like Kmart, and lets you stick the movable alphabet on a metal cupboard or appliance (though I notice magnets don’t stick to a lot of modern fridges, which I think is very annoying).

Phonics Hero

Please note that the little boy I made this program up for already has the fabulous early literacy app Phonics Hero, which is one of the things that helped him initially get some idea about sounds and letters. However, the Phonics Hero app is not currently in the Australian apps store, because there was a problem with it when Apple upgraded their operating system.They are fixing it now and hoping it will be back in the store in the new year. In the meantime, children can still play Phonics Hero on ordinary computers. Click here to sign up, and you get to use it for quite a long time before you have to pay anything.

Older learners

Please also note that many of the above resources can also be used with beginner literacy-learners aged 7 and older, but some will be too babyish and others too easy.

Seek expert help if possible, and see the list of Phonics Resources here for more ideas of resources to try.


2 responses to “Budget beginner phonics”

  1. Meegan says:

    Awesome resource for all parents! 


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