Children with dyslexia struggle learning to read – find out how systematic phonics instruction can help build foundational reading skills.

Children with dyslexia are capable of learning to read and spell well – they just need a different approach to learning. This approach is called systematic phonics instruction and it helps children build a solid reading foundation so that they can develop more advanced reading skills over time. In today’s post, I am going to explain to you what systematic phonics instruction is and why children with dyslexia benefit from this kind of instruction.

What is Systematic Phonics Instruction?

Systematic phonics instruction is a method of teaching students how to connect the graphemes (letters) with phonemes (sounds) using a clear and well-thought-out scope and sequence to teach kids how to read and spell.  

Lessons are built on previously taught information, from simple to complex, with clear, concise student objectives that are driven by ongoing assessment:

  • Consonant and short vowel sounds
  • Digraphs and blends
  • Long vowels and other vowel patterns
  • Syllable patterns
  • Affixes

Children with dyslexia need to learn phonics in a slow, structured way with a lot of repetition.  Through systematic phonics instruction, children can move from simple patterns of letters and sounds to more complicated ones. For example, a child might learn that the diphthong oy makes an /oy/ sound like in the words toy and boy. The child would practice this pattern in different words.

Systematic Phonics Instruction is essential for accurate and fluent decoding skills according to the National Reading Panel’s summary of findings report:

“Systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read.”

What Does Direct and Explicit Instruction Mean? 

Students with dyslexia need to be taught systematic phonics explicitly. The term “Explicit Instruction” means that the teacher is the one who takes center stage. The teacher controls the student’s learning by teaching the student. All concepts are directly and explicitly taught to the student with continuous student-teacher interaction, guidance, and feedback.  

Explicit instruction makes systematic phonics instruction clearer to the student by teaching in a sequential way, modeling when necessary, and providing a lot of practice opportunities for the student.

In explicit instruction, the teacher will first present a lesson with a demonstration. The teacher will then do the lesson together with the student. Finally, the teacher will ask the student to do it without guidance.  

I do, we do, you do.

What is a Systematic Phonics Instruction Example?


There are popular reading programs currently being used in many school districts such as Balanced Literacy and Guided Reading. Although many children are able to learn how to read using these popular programs, children with dyslexia do not. That means these popular reading programs will not work for 1 in every 5 children in the classroom.

Children with dyslexia struggle with the letter-sound system. They need to be taught explicitly in an organized, systematic, efficient way using a structured literacy program that includes systematic phonics instruction.  

Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy is an approach that is often recommended for students with dyslexia because it is well-supported by research and is an evidence-based method. Structured literacy integrates phonological awareness, reading, spelling, sight words, fluency, and comprehension using explicit and systematic instruction. 


Orton-Gillingham is an approach used to teach students with dyslexia. It is often used in one-on-one tutoring, small group instruction, and even in the mainstream classroom. Orton-Gillingham includes systematic phonics, beginning with the alphabetic principles in the initial stages of reading development and advancing to more complex principles as the students progress. Students learn that words are made up of individual sounds, and the letters of written words graphically represent each of these speech sounds.

I Have a Resource For You!

Thank you so much for reading my post today. You might also enjoy reading my previous posts:

Evidence-Based Reading Instruction for Dyslexia

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

PRIDE Reading Program

Systematic phonics instruction
Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com
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