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By Kathy Weeden and Kim Drane

Reviewed by Lara Cain Gray

Most of us understand that there are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but far fewer could list the 44 sounds that make up everything we say when combining those letters into words. Phonobet is a colourful, rhyming complement to traditional ABC books, designed to introduce readers to phonemes. From ‘th’ to ‘oo’ to ‘ng’, Phonobet groups similar phonemes inviting the reader to compare vowels, understand silent letters, and consider which sounds we make with our ‘voice turned off’ (th in ‘thin’) or with our ‘voice turned on’ (th in ‘the’).
This book is perfect for classrooms working on synthetic phonics programs, bringing sounds together with bright, bold illustrations and fun read-aloud comparisons sounds:
  1. t. ch. k: a train along a track
  2. d. j. g: drum, with a bang and a whack!
This is a book that can be used in a range of ways, by young readers, by teaching adults, alone or in group work. Each page includes a phoneme/grapheme series, a strong image, and scattered example words with the relevant letters highlighted. Onomatopoeia plays a key role too, particularly in helping introduce vowels (Boo-hoo! Ow! Ahoy!). The end matter offers additional pronunciation guides, some thoughts on accent, word games and writing prompts.
The layout is so bold, with so many inclusions on each spread, that on first read through it feels like complete chaos. But stick with it for a few reads, or select particular focus pages for sharing with a young person. You’ll be rewarded with a comprehensive and lively companion read for phonics instruction, or general linguistic awareness at any age.

Teacher’s Notes

National Library of Australia 2023

Kathy Weeden 

Kim Drane

Lara Cain Gray’book The Grown Up’s Guide To Picture Books is being published in September this year.

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