The incongruities of ‘teaching phonics’ with two year olds

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The enigma of the Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) policy directive in England, alongside the conspicuous ‘school readiness’ agenda appears to be inducing detrimental incongruities in graduate early years educators’ teaching of phonics to two-year olds. This paper outlines the findings of a contemporary research study highlighting that graduate early years educators in early years education settings believe formally ‘teaching’ SSP to two-year-olds, is ‘best practice’ to prepare young children for school. This paper reports the findings of an empirical study, comprising a preliminary survey and reflective ‘Zine’ accounts. The findings reveal that experienced, graduate early years educators are investing in expensive SSP programmes of study rather than utilising their own expertise, as they do not feel confident to support two-year-olds with their reading development. This lack of confidence and the phonics policy directive could impact on the two-year-olds’ holistic engagement and enjoyment of ‘being a reader’ in the broadest sense. Consequently, this misperception of reading as being ‘taught’ phonics may well impede reading for these two-year-olds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-853
Number of pages12
JournalEducation 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education
Issue number7
Early online date27 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019


  • Early reading
  • confidence
  • phonics
  • school readiness
  • two-year-olds


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