By Nkem Iloeje-Agu


Nearly everyone, parents or school, agrees on one fact – literacy is an essential for facilitation and enhancement of learning, especially after age two.

Even though many providers, especially home-schooling parents, have tended to successfully introduce their child to reading from age two, it is, at least, ideal and expected that a child who is over three years old, and who has been in a school for up to one year, should be able to confidently encode and decode words.

It is interesting that, even in this day, whenever I state this fact, I’m mostly greeted with incredulous and dubious glances from people, including teachers and seasoned school owners. Some, particularly “the bigger and older”, schools, would dismiss the entire idea with a wave of the hand.

To those who do ask, “How?” or “What are we doing wrong?”, my initial response is that, once you continue to teach literacy, using only the twenty-six sounds of the letters of the alphabet, and in that sequence, the child under your care is grossly limited in his ability to learn to read.

Secondly, once you continue to use the wrong sequences or methods to teach, even if you use the forty-two sounds recommended for early years, irrespective of the name given to the package you have, success rates would also remain minimal, at best. Worse is you would have frustrated, discouraged children, disenchanted with the idea of reading.

Also, once we relegate or play down the importance or fail to introduce the non-phonetic or “tricky” words at the right time, the child’s decoding fluency, and therefore, his understanding, would be hampered.

Truth is that, with a combination of the right contents and approaches, it takes barely four to six weeks of effort to be able to achieve literacy or reading fluency in a child who is up to age three.

With my own little tweaks and touches, here and there, I have found the Jolly Phonics contents and sequence to be quite effective in meeting or even surpassing the recommended learning goals for Literacy and Language Development.

In the course of my visits with schools, I have found that, although many claim to have long been introduced to Jolly Phonics, they have been largely unsuccessful in achieving expected minimum results. This, I find, is because, while they all have the Jolly package, they lose track of right application and delivery approaches.

In subsequent posts, I will run us through some of the very simple approaches I have successfully applied in my own classrooms. And I’m sure you too may find them useful, either as they come, or, better still, with your own personal touches.


  1. It really makes a whole lot of sense to me, ability of a child to read as early as three- four years boost the confidence in a child and increase his / her self esteem.
    Though I still want to know more on how to carry it out effectively. Thanks

    • Thank you, Gbemisola,

      To achieve reading at age three (sometimes, even below three), you must use a scheme that works.
      First thing I recommend is starting the child early on sounds, ensuring to use the forty-two sounds in the phases that have been proven effective. see Jolly Phonics plan for teaching reading.
      Personally, I use a heavily self-adapted version of Jolly, and it has worked tremendously for me.

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