Reading Bear: online phonics tutorial for kids

“Highlighting text as sounds are pronounced and using examples and visuals allows students to infer phonics rules naturally and painlessly, without inflicting worksheets or unnecessary jargon on them.” –Larry Sanger is a revolutionary new phonics website launched in 2012. The free online program teaches beginning readers over 1,200 vocabulary words, while systematically introducing all the main phonetic patterns of written English, all using innovative multi- media. Each presentation — playable either as a video or as an interactive slide show — introduces one or a few related phonics rules and vocabulary items with a lot of focus on meaning and context. According to the developers, “There is nothing else like it, free or otherwise.”

Reading Bear is an ad-free, non-profit project of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, supported by an anonymous Memphis benefactor. The project’s designer is Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Ohio State in 2000, specializing in the theory of knowledge. Sanger taught his older son to read at a young age with various tools, including an early flashcard version of Reading Bear. The flashcards (in PDF form) are available for free at Larry Sanger’s blog. He said at the time:

“I started teaching my little boy to read beginning at 22 months, and by age four, he was decoding text (reading, in that sense) quite fluently at the sixth grade level, or above. I’ve discovered that there isn’t a lot written about the subject of baby reading.  So I have written a 45,000-word essay on the subject.”

Reading Bear is mainly intended for kids learning to read at the normal ages of 4-7, but the simplicity of the program enables it to be used with younger children. You can learn more about Reading Bear and watch an introductory video on its Getting Started page.

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