Songbirds Phonics

Celebrated author Julia Donaldson is best known for The Gruffalo, but did you know the Children’s Laureate has written well over 150 books, including a complete phonic reading scheme called Songbirds? With Julia Donaldson at the helm, we can be confident the stories are going to be enjoyable and entertaining, and they are.

Songbirds Phonics is a pedigree scheme worth every penny for helping children get to grips with words, sounds and spelling patterns, and to inspire a love of reading. Writing this collection couldn’t have been easy though, because virtually every word in each book is phonically decodable.

It must have have been quite a task to write a library of books to cater for a variety of children’s tastes, but there’s something here for everyone. Storylines range from the realistic to the fantastical. My favourites include Moan, Moan, Moan about a girl who wishes her goldfish was her mum; The Upside-down Browns who climb mountains in their slippers and go to town in their dressing gowns; and The Wishing Elf who visits a school and gives everyone one wish, with some interesting results! There are stories written in rhymes and prose, too.

All the books offer rich phonics practice fully aligned to letters and sounds, with a systematic introduction to all phonemes and letter patterns for Letters and Sounds phases 2-5. The Songbirds collection is wonderfully illustrated with page after page of colourful pictures drawn by a host of talented artists.

On the inside front and back cover of each book you will find some helpful tips for talking together, reading the story, and questions to assess understanding. There are also phonic checks with example phonic words, high frequency tricky words, and challenge words.

However, each stage of the scheme does come with a teaching notes book that dissects each title and goes into more detail, describing activities for introducing the phonics prior to, during and after group and independent reading. There’s plenty to go at here with assessment icons along the way that highlight junctures at which to chart pupils’ progress. There are links to other Oxford Reading Tree phonic materials as well.     

Reading is a bit like riding in the Grand National. There are plenty of words and sentences that can unseat horses and their riders. To finish you have to have plenty of stamina. The conditions on the day make all the difference. Reading is also unpredictable because you are bound to come across words you haven’t seen before. However, if you do the groundwork and put in the training, crossing the finishing line is achievable. Songbirds can produce some brilliant reading jockeys and help children discover there is a code to reading. Julia Donaldson has described Songbirds as her ‘proudest achievement’ and it is easy to see why.

Our Verdict

Powerful phonics

For me, Songbirds Phonics is a high quality, powerful storytelling scheme written by one of the best. This horse has romped home and left the field for dead.

Pie Corbett