Jolly Phonics Review

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Offering multisensory exercises, colorful materials and fun activities alongside a strong, step-by-step and comprehensive approach to synthetic phonic instruction, Jolly Phonics can be an engaging, enjoyable and less stressful way of helping students learn to read.

What We Like

Highly multisensory phonics program
Lots of fun lessons
Sequential, logical step-by-step approach
Strong and thorough synthetic phonics
Also teaches handwriting, reading
Gets students reading quickly
Fun craft activities provide reinforcement
without excessive drill

But watch out for

Not the most compact program out there
Not a complete language arts program, parents will have to purchase grammar, spelling

What Is Jolly Phonics?

Created in the UK in 1987 by publisher Chris Jolly and educator Sue Lloyd, Jolly Phonics is a popular synthetic phonics program used by schools and homeschools around the world. 

The program centers around the development of five key literacy sounds (letter sounds, letter formation, blending, sounding and irregular words), and develops them using a combination of explicit instruction, workbook exercises and a wide array of multisensory exercises and activities.

Although created and originally used in the UK, Jolly Phonics has since been adapted to suit a number of countries, including the US. 

What Ages Or Grades Is Jolly Phonics Intended For?

Jolly Phonics is intended for students in Pre-K to about Grade 2, or around ages 3 to 6, as a method of taking them from the very fundamentals of phonics to early reading.

The program progresses from an introduction to letters, digraphs and their sounds and progresses to the ability to read and comprehend short stories and written work. 

Overall, this is pretty much on point for students in pre-K to 2 who tend to be transitioning from pre- to early-reading and beyond.

We also feel that Jolly Phonics’ materials and method of teaching are pretty well designed for kids in these grades, making use of a variety of illustrated workbooks, brightly colored illustrations, songs, cartoon-like characters, crafts, songs, short movies and more.

Even the program’s decodable readers are suitable for kids at the 4-6 age range, with imaginative stories about rockets, snakes, rainforests, monsters and more that are likely to capture their interest. 

That said, while it’s certainly possible for homeschools to use the program with older students who might benefit from its synthetic phonics instruction, for the most part we feel that Jolly Phonics’ extensive use of song, cartoon illustrations and characters may not necessarily hold their interest for all that long.

By and large, the program is structured around its 7 groups of letter sounds (which we’ll discuss a little later), so there isn’t much in the way of a placement test, although the company does offer optional reading/comprehension assessments to be used throughout.  

This means that homeschooling parents switching into the program from another will need to make a judgment about their student’s skill and ability and find a suitable level based on the sounds they haven’t yet learned. 

Helpfully, the program does spiral fairly nicely and its components tend to review the letter sounds and rules from previous materials, so new students should never really get too lost. 

A Note About The Jolly Phonics Alphabet (Seven Letter Sound Groups)

It’s important to note that Jolly Phonics doesn’t follow a traditional A-Z approach when teaching letters and letter sounds. 

Instead, the program divides the English alphabet into seven groups of sounds, including digraphs, and arranges many of its books and resources (such as the workbooks and Finger Phonics books) accordingly. 

picture of jolly phonics letter groups outlined in book

These seven groups, in order of introduction, are: 

GroupLetter sounds
1s , a , t, i, p, n
2c/k, e, h, r, m, d
3g, ou, i, f, b
4ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or
5z, w, ng, v, oo
6y, x, ch, sh, th
7qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

In general, this is a very unusual way of arranging and introducing the alphabet and digraphs that is likely to be unfamiliar to parents and even a bit confusing. 

It is, however, based on some sound logic. 

The letter sounds are arranged in Jolly Phonics on the basis of how commonly they are used when building words.

The idea here is to get kids building (i.e. phonetically reading) 3 and 4 letter words as quickly as possible and for the most part it does, with students often being able to assemble and read a good number of short words (using the sounds s, a, t, i, p, n) on their own by the end of the first stage of learning. 

What’s Used To Teach Jolly Phonics? 

What precisely is involved in teaching phonics with the program really depends on the skill level and age of the child, but in general Jolly Phonics is fairly expansive and can offer homeschooling parents quite a few resources for teaching. 

These can include:

  • Student books
  • Teacher’s guides
  • Story books
  • DVDs, song CDs and other media
  • Finger Phonics 
  • 7 Workbooks 
  • 5 decodable reader levels

As well as a host of helpful teaching supplements, such as:

  • Flashcards
  • Dictionaries
  • Blend wheels
  • Posters
  • Magnetic letters
  • And much more

As can be seen, Jolly Phonics is pretty comprehensive in its approach to teaching, with both instructional material and an extensive amount of varied practice, which is always good to see.

They also offer parents a number of different ways of teaching phonics, from song and kinesthetic movement to rote work to direct handwriting and reading practice.

As a potential downside, of course, it can’t be said to be a very compact curriculum – there can be a lot of material for parents to buy, store and keep track of over the course of the program, especially if parents are interested in some (or all) of the teaching supplements or are teaching two or more students at once.  

It can also be a little intimidating for homeschooling parents and a little confusing, especially at first glance.

With all that said, below we’ll take a look at some (and it is by no means a comprehensive list) of the main teaching components of Jolly Phonics.

Core Instruction

Teacher’s Guide

The teacher’s books are something of a center to the Jolly Phonics program, providing parents with an overview of the methodology and purpose of the program as a whole, especially how it fits in to the larger scheme of language arts study, as well as a general overview of the purpose and use of each resource and component offered. 

Perhaps more importantly to homeschooling parents, they also contain fairly detailed lesson plans that can help guide parents (and students) through the phonics learning process. 

These lesson plans contain fairly detailed explanations of letter sounds, graphemes, letter forms and more, including the reasons for each activity in the program and trouble spots to look out for, ultimately providing a good fundamental background that can be very useful for parents who have never taught phonics before or have struggled to do so in the past with other programs. 

Jolly Phonics’ teacher’s guides are laid out in a fairly typical fashion, with pages containing reduced pages of the student book ringed by step-by-step instructions, tips and guidance.

picture of page from jolly phonics teacher's guide

In our opinion, they are well organized and logically arranged, making them easy to understand and follow.

They are also fairly well scripted, explaining what parents should do in a very sequential manner for each skill but without providing an exact, word-for-word script.

This can make it surprisingly flexible and open for homeschooling parents interested in adding their own personal touch to lessons, although it does mean that new or inexperienced homeschoolers might need to prepare what they want to say a little more beforehand. 

Student Book

The student books are where students will spend a good deal of their time during lessons following along and getting practice. 

There are three, 48-page student books at time of writing (each building on the skills developed in the previous volume) and they are full color, softcover workbooks designed to be used under the direction of the teacher’s guide. 

Each student book contains a variety of stories and activities and are intended to help students master the 42 letter sounds and develop/hone specific skills.

The first book, for example, covers the concept of blending, basic letter formation and a first set of irregular words. 

The second builds on this with alternative spellings, capitalization handwriting, more irregular words, more complex sentence reading and so on, while the third focuses more on alternative spelling, tricky words and begins to introduce reading comprehension, something that most programs tend to leave until later grades.  

Each book works on these concepts through a wide variety of stories and workbook-style exercises, including fill in the blanks, line connection, image-word/letter matching, handwriting practice. 

The student books are very colorful and fairly well-illustrated, so they won’t be too boring for students to look at for stretches of time. 

They’re also pretty straightforward, with clear instructions and a fairly intuitive layout, although they can’t easily be used to their full potential without the teacher’s guide or lesson plans as the instruction and guidance is pretty short and to the point. 

Learning Materials And Supplements

Jolly Stories

Designed as a first step into Jolly Phonics for younger pre-readers (around 3-4), Jolly Stories is a board book that contains seven short stories, each of which introduces six specific letter sounds (making up the 42 covered by the program). 

These stories are wonderfully illustrated, richly detailed and full color cardboard-style books (meaning they’ll stand up to curious little hands) that place the Jolly Phonics characters (Inky, Snake, Bee and Phonic the Computer – more on them later) in a variety of situations. 

Each of the short story pages contains a short written piece, kinesthetic letter activity instructions and cut out letters for finger tracing. 

picture of jolly stories page showing different activities

They also contain a number of activities where students must find and locate letter sounds by finding specific items in the illustrations, which is pretty clever.

For example, students find a picture of a spider to represent the sounds S, P, IE, D, ER. 

Finally, each story also contains a short word list of 3 or 4 letter words to get students started with very basic blending and sounding work.

Overall, Jolly Stories are quite imaginative and are surprisingly activity rich for introductory phonics books aimed at the preschool set, which can make them somewhat more fun to work through compared to, say, a more direct instructional approach

This means that using Jolly Stories can be a gentler and easier to sit through way of introducing letter sounds to young kids.

One thing some parents may need to be aware of is that, due to being so colorful and richly illustrated, parents may need to keep a closer eye on their students to prevent them from becoming distracted.

Finger Phonics Books

Jolly Phonics’ Finger Phonics Books are a kinesthetic learning resource to help students better understand letter sounds. 

The books are divided into seven volumes, each corresponding to and covering a particular letter sound group, and generally contain directions for making various body movements associated with a particular letter sound. 

Finger Phonics 1 works on sounds S A T I P and N, Finger Phonics 2 on C/K E H R M and D and so on.

They also contain full color illustrations of various kinds that provide important context for the letter sound in question, which can help students by forming connections between a sound and a more understandable real world situation, making them more memorable in the process. 

picture from finger phonics books in jolly phonics

For example, the sound “o” may be represented in a page that has a kids turning off the light in their bedroom (o – off/on).

The books also contain cut out letters for finger tracing, an additional kinesthetic/tactile activity to help with letter formation.

picture of kinesthetic finger tracing in jolly phonics finger phonics

Towards the end of each book are a variety of workbook-like activities and puzzles to help reinforce the learning, which is always nice. 

By and large, we feel that Jolly Phonics’ Finger Books can be a very interesting teaching resource, providing good kinesthetic and contextual reinforcement to phonics learning.

Being full color and extensively and wonderfully illustrated, they can also be a lot of fun to look through and find all the small details Jolly Phonics has included on each page although, as with Jolly Stories, some parents will probably have to make sure that students don’t get too distracted during lessons

Jolly Phonics Activity Books

Jolly Phonics’ Activity books are a series of workbook-style resources designed to provide students in Pre-K and up with essential focused practice.

They are an alternative to Jolly Phonics’ classroom-oriented Workbooks, as they are  specifically aimed at homeschooling students and are actually slightly longer (36 pages vs 24), as they contain more (and more varied) activities. 

As with the Finger Books there are seven of these activity books, each designed to work on a particular letter group. 

Each workbook contains short stories based around a particular letter sound, which is then followed up by a wide range of activities that focus on the essential skills of reading, e.g. letter formation, blending, sounding and so on.

picture of story and activity in jolly phonics activity book

There are, for example, sticker work, finger tracing, puzzles, kinesthetic activities, handwriting exercises, matching games, coloring activities, work with tricky words and much more. 

The books are, as with the Finger Phonics books and Jolly Stories books, full color and nicely illustrated and are pretty ideal for younger students (4 or so) in our opinion. 

Interestingly, they also contain a variety of craft activities (such as making edible letters, a chia pet out of an egg or models out of boxes) that can be a lot of fun and cool to integrate into lessons as kind of a little project. 

picture of craft activity in jolly phonics activity book

Jolly Phonics Decodable Readers

Much like other learn to read programs, Jolly Phonics also offers a variety of readers to provide budding students with specific reading practice. 

There are about five levels of readers, each becoming increasingly sophisticated to fit with a student’s developing skill, and are specifically designed to go along with the program as their text tends to be made up only of words that can be decoded from the 42 letter sounds taught in the program. 

There are different editions and collections of readers floating around out there, with collections of short stories, progressively challenging color-coded collections, interest-based collections (Inky Mouse & Friends, Phonic’s Fantastic Facts, Snake’s Amazing Tales and so on) and more. 

All the books are extensively illustrated and very colorful, making them fun to look at and, for the most part, while they do offer some challenge (later editions adding some tricky words and alternative spellings) they never get too intimidating to go through.

picture of page in jolly phonics reader

Further, as the books are decodable based on the specific skills and knowledge taught by Jolly Phonics, students are less likely to rely on contextual guessing when reading (resulting in fewer frustrating mistakes) and will get a little more skill practice as a result. 

Finally, we like that each book also starts with an outline of their skill requirements. 

These lay out what students will need to have mastered before beginning each reader, which can help reduce the likelihood of them getting stuck and/or frustrated. 

Jolly Phonics Media Resources

Finally, Jolly Phonics also offers a variety of multimedia resources that parents can pick up to augment learning.

There are, for example, DVDs that go with the program that contain 8 episodes of a kind of tv show where puppet characters of Inky, Snake, Phonic and Bee explore all 42 sounds and the program’s key reading skills as part of a larger story. 

They also contain some helpful information for parents on phonics instruction and for using the program effectively. 

The DVD can be fun to watch and can serve as a helpful alternative explanation of concepts or as a general drill-less revision. 

Parents should note, however, that the characters do have British accents, which might be harder for younger US students to understand at times.

Additionally, while we thought it was definitely very cute and potentially very informative, the program is kind of old-school and may not be quite as fascinating to students used to cutting edge 3D graphics. 

In addition to the DVD, Jolly Phonics also has a resources CD, which contains a variety of printable files that can be used to supplement lessons (such as posters, stickers, certificates, templates and additional worksheets). 

There is also a Jolly Phonics music CD (Jolly Songs), which contains recorded music ( helpfully sung by American kids) to go along with and reinforce the 42 letter sounds as kind of a mnemonic device. 

Approach To Teaching Phonics

Synthetic Phonics Instruction

Jolly Phonics is a phonics program, which means that it deliberately and explicitly teaches its students letter sounds, phonetic rules, digraphs, graphenes as well as how to blend them into words.

As a synthetic program, students in Jolly Phonics are first taught the 42 letter sounds and then are taught to synthesize (hence the name) or construct words out of them before learning how to break words apart. 

This sets it apart from analytic phonics programs, which do something of the reverse and introduce words that students break into their component sounds.

Among educators today, synthetic phonics is often seen as the better and more effective approach to take when teaching kids to read, and we feel Jolly Phonics is a particularly good and effective example of this method of teaching.

Teaching is done in a very systematic, part-to-whole way that guides students from simple to more complex reading tasks. 

Students begin the program learning basic letter sounds and digraphs, how to blend them, progressing to 3 and 4 letter words before finally trying their hand at short reading exercises. 

This careful, step-by-step approach means that the program can be a lot gentler and its tasks seem a lot less intimidating to students.

Synthetic instruction also means that the program doesn’t really rely on understanding or context, which can cut down on the amount of “cheating” and guessing that goes on during reading practice. 

Jolly Phonics also spends a considerable amount of time explicitly teaching and practicing letter sounds and phonetic rules, including entire sections dedicated to alternative spellings and irregular words, which can really give students a bank of knowledge to fall back on as they begin to read more complex texts and words later on.

Finally, and addressing a common complaint with synthetic phonics programs, Jolly Phonics includes a good deal of contextual learning and reading comprehension work at later stages, something that is generally a feature of more inductive or analytic approaches. 

On the downside, however, this synthetic approach and the need to ensure that students are secure in their phonetic rules means that the program does use a fair amount of repetition, review and rote learning, which not every student (or parent) is a fan of (although the workbooks and various multisensory activities can help out, which we’ll discuss below). 

Five Skills of Reading

Jolly Phonics systematically breaks phonics learning and instruction into five skills, whose development forms the core of the program’s instruction. These are: 

Learning letter sounds – As mentioned, Jolly Phonics explicitly teaches students 42 key letter sounds, both alphabetically and in digraphs form, and usually tries to make them memorable by introducing them alongside kinesthetic movements.

The program actually emphasizes teaching the English alphabet by referring to letters by their sounds, rather than their names, which can be an interesting bit of ground-up reinforcement, even if some parents may find it a bit unusual. 

Letter Formation – In addition to recognizing letter sounds, Jolly Phonics also teaches students how to write letters (in print form). 

Much like its reading, the program teaches print writing very systematically, first teaching (and frequently reviewing and revisiting) the proper way to hold a pencil before beginning to deliberately and carefully teach students how to form each letter using precise and specific strokes. 

Students first do so using letter cutouts and tactile finger tracing activities before progressing to typical workbook-style handwriting practice. 

The inclusion of handwriting in Jolly Phonics is quite interesting, as the handwriting practice can serve to intrinsically reinforce the identification of letter shapes.

It also means that parents interested in working on these skills early on won’t have to run out and get an additional handwriting program. 

That said, the program does use a pretty standard form of clear printing and it is pretty tightly integrated into the program and its materials as part of the lessons, so parents interested in teaching a different form of handwriting (such as D’nealian, for example), may need to spend some time making lesson plan adjustments.  

Blending – As with many other phonics programs, Jolly Phonics has students frequently practice blending the letter sounds they see together to build words. 

Blending in the program generally starts off with students practicing their letter sounds, having a parent demonstrate a blend and then students doing some practice through workbook exercises, simple readings and even memory work. 

Segmenting – Segmenting (or breaking apart words into their component sounds) is often used in the program to help reinforce a student’s ability to listen for and identify letter sounds and the program does so through various means, such as by providing them with practice word banks, focused segmenting exercises, rhymes, poems, limericks and even songs. 

Irregular or Tricky Words – At later stages of Jolly Phonics, students often spend a fair amount of time learning and practicing alternative spellings and irregularly spelled (or tricky) words, often through a combination of workbook exercises, readings and memory work.

Multisensory And Activity Rich Lessons And Practice

As we mentioned earlier, Jolly Phonics is a phonics learning program that has a wide variety of components that parents can use (such as direct instruction, storybooks, workbooks and flashcards). 

The program also uses a variety of different methods and techniques to present and reinforce the material learned, including: 

  • Stories
  • Songs
  • Videos
  • Workbook exercises
  • Kinesthetic sound demonstrations
  • Letter tracing
  • Discussions and direct instruction
  • Flashcards
  • Different craft activities
  • And much more

As a result, Jolly Phonics can be considered a very activity rich and multisensory reading system, probably more than most that we’ve looked at. 

This can make its lessons a lot less boring to sit through and can help it suit a variety of different student learning styles and preferences.

Further, because Jolly Phonics lessons often associate letter sounds with actions, songs, movements and stories, they can help to strengthen their associations in a student’s mind, which is quite interesting and is an approach that seems to be backed up by research. 

For homeschools, this diversity of resources and teaching methods can be of particular benefit, as it can allow interested parents to really configure learning to suit a student’s needs, even to the point of being able to modify learning based on a student’s mood.

If a student is having a particularly hard day, for example, parents can switch to a song, do some finger phonics or just shift to a reinforcing activity rather than trying to force their way through a lesson, a bit of flexibility that parents of very young students might appreciate.

Parents should note however, as with other strongly multisensory and activity-based learning programs, that adding more activities and resources to a lesson can increase the amount of preparation and organization required for teaching.

It also means that enthusiastic parents may end up with quite a few things to store, organize and keep track of. 

Inky, Snake, Bee and Phonic 

Finally, Jolly Phonics makes use of a core cast of cartoon characters that appear throughout the program and its materials. 

These are Inky the mouse, Snake the snake, Bee the bee and Phonic, a desktop computer. 

These characters often (but not always) form the subject of the program’s stories and appear in Jolly Phonics’ pictures, exercises, artwork and even readers to one degree or another. 

picture of inky the mouse from jolly phonics in a finger phonics book

These characters are kind of fun and whimsical, and perhaps more importantly add a bit more consistency for kids as the format and style of the materials evolve. 

How It Works

Jolly Phonics is a full program for introducing phonics and reading skills for pre-K through grade 1 and is designed to systematically take students from having no knowledge of letters to reading short sentences and basic paragraphs in that time frame.

Each lesson in the program is typically structured around seven steps to cover each of the five reading skills described in the section above. These are:

  1. Story
  2. Sound
  3. Action
  4. Letter Formation
  5. Blending
  6. Sound recognition
  7. Further activities and reinforcement 


Each letter sound in Jolly Phonics lessons is first introduced in a story. 

In early years, parents can use the Jolly Stories book, while with older students these are contained in the student (and teacher) books with reinforcing stories found in each workbook.

picture example of jolly phonics teaching a letter sound through a story

The idea here is to introduce the program’s letter sounds in a way that will be a bit more fun, engaging and understandable for students compared to a simple lecture. 

Those teaching very young, fidgety students or students with a more auditory-learning bent can also use the program’s Jolly Songs and jingles CDs to do so, somewhat like Shurley English.


Following the introduction of a letter sound, parents and students generally work on practicing the sound that letter makes themselves, that is, making a /rrr/ sound like a dog or /sss/ like a snake to each other to drive the point home and create an understandable association.

Parents who are a bit shy can also make use of a dedicated lesson app the company has recently introduced, which will digitally demonstrate the correct sound for the student. 


As well as demonstrating the correct sound, Jolly Phonics attempts to reinforce and deepen a student’s understanding of a letter-sound connection through various kinesthetic activities. 

The program’s boardbooks, Finger Phonics books, activity / workbooks and student books all contain kinesthetic instructions that will have students and parents engage in fun, multisensory whole body movements to simulate the sound in question.

For example, a student might stick out their tongue like a clown and blow a raspberry to demonstrate the “th” sound, move their hands around in a snake-like fashion while hissing “ssss,” or pretend to eat yogurt while saying”y.”

example of kinesthetic action in jolly phonics

Letter Formation

Once they have the letter sound down, students are then introduced to and practice its written expression. 

In earlier years (such as in the activity books and story books), students might start off with doing some finger letter tracing using letter cut outs, learning where they should start, finish and general directionality for each letter. 

As the program progresses, and as students learn to hold a pencil correctly, they start doing handwriting exercises in print form in their student activity books and their student books. 


Once students have a solid idea about certain letter sounds and can identify letters, they begin to use their knowledge to blend them together, reading short words. 

Most stories in Jolly Phonics tend to have short word lists containing 3 or 4 letter words made out of the various letter sounds that have been introduced. 

Parents and students practice saying each letter sound and then blend them together to read the whole. 

T-a-p becomes tap, c-oo-l becomes cool and so on.

At later levels, students begin to integrate direct reading practice from the decodable readers into lessons.

Sound Recognition

Once they start blending, students are then challenged to practice picking out the letter sounds from words.

In earlier years, parents might lean on the program’s songs and jingles to get practice, while Jolly Phonics’ activity books and student books often contain word lists and focused exercises for this purpose.

In one such exercise, for example, students might be presented with various pictures and have to pick one that starts with a particular sound.

picture of multisensory lesson activity in jolly phonics

Further Activities and Reinforcement

Finally, many Jolly Phonics books (e.g. student books and activity books) contain additional, non-workbook activities that students and parents can try out to further reinforce reading knowledge and skills in a less drill-like manner.

There are a wide variety of these activities throughout the program, and they can include things like:

  • Making a collage
  • Baking something
  • Painting
  • Coloring
  • Dancing
  • Sculpting
  • Various board games
  • And much, much more
picture of student smoothie making activity in jolly phonics student book

Not only can these activities be highly enjoyable and a good opportunity for parents and students to bond, but we think that their inclusion can make Jolly Phonics a particularly good fit for Charlotte Mason and eclectic homeschoolers.  

Is Jolly Phonics A Secular Homeschool Reading Program?

Used by schools across the UK and in homeschools across the world, Jolly Phonics is a secular phonics program that makes no particular mention of religion, God, religious texts or any belief or philosophy.

The program’s stories, activities and exercises are completely neutral and completely inoffensive, focusing entirely on teaching students to read.

In our opinion, then, Jolly Phonics should be a good fit for most homeschooling families unless they are specifically looking for a faith-based reading program.

Pros and Cons


Exceptionally multisensory

Jolly Phonics learning materials contain a ton of multisensory activities, such as songs, finger tracing, written work, coloring, painting, kinesthetic activities and even baking.

As a result, it is a highly engaging method of learning letter sounds that can suit a wide variety of learning styles and interests.

Lessons can be a lot of fun 

The inclusion of multisensory activities and exercises, such as songs, poetry, body movements, art and more, means that Jolly Phonics lessons can also be quite fun to go through compared to simple workbook exercises or parent-led lectures, which in turn can lead to greater student engagement, less frustration and more effective learning.

Sequential, step-by-step approach to teaching reading

Jolly Phonics breaks the process of reading into 5 distinct skills and approaches them using a 7-step process that gradually guides students from simple to complex tasks, with plenty of practice in between. 

As a result, the program can be considered pretty gentle and approachable, allowing students to learn to read in a less intimidating and potentially frustrating manner.

Strong synthetic phonics instruction

Jolly Phonics teaches phonics in a pretty in-depth and thorough way, explicitly and extensively teaching 42 letter sounds and rules, as well as developing strong blending and segmenting skills through a wide variety of skill-building practice activities and exercises. 

In addition, at later levels, the program explicitly teaches students a variety of common alternative spellings and tricky words that can help them deal with more complex texts later on.

Also teaches handwriting and comprehension

As part of its focus on core reading skills, Jolly Phonics also teaches students print handwriting, doing so with detailed and comprehensive letter formation instruction and numerous practice exercises.

The program also addresses a common critique of synthetic phonics programs, a lack of understanding and context in reading, by providing students with focused reading comprehension work in later levels. 

Unique letter sound groupings get kids reading ASAP

Jolly Phonics has structured its approach to teaching letter sounds around getting kids to read simple words as quickly as possible.

It does so by carefully focusing on 42 letter sounds, dividing them into seven groups and by starting with those that are most often used in creating simple 3 and 4 letter words. 

Consequently, students should be able to get up and blending words quite quickly with this program. 

An established program

Jolly Phonics has been extensively used in UK schools, as well as homeschools and learning centers around the world, as a way of teaching students to recognize letter sounds and learn to read. 

In fact, being so popular, the program has been the subject of a number of research studies across the globe that have shown positive results when it comes to helping students develop reading skills.


Does potentially have a lot of components for parents to pick up

Jolly Learning does offer quite a few components, enhancements and supplements to the Jolly Phonics program, which can be a bit much for some homeschools in terms of buying, storing and organizing the materials. 

Not a complete ELA program 

Jolly Phonics is, as the name implies, a phonics program. 

While it does cover handwriting and some reading comprehension, it lacks grammar, spelling and other components, which form separate courses that parents will have to purchase (Jolly Grammar and Jolly Spelling). 

Who Is Jolly Phonics Ideal For?

Those looking for a gentle reading program

With its systematic approach and wide array of colorful learning tools and resources, Jolly Phonics can make learning a lot of fun and a lot less stressful for students, which in turn can make learning more effective. 

Families who are into multisensory learning

Jolly Phonics teaches using a variety of techniques and includes audio, visual, kinesthetic and tactile activities and exercises throughout. 

As a result, it can be a very effective choice for students with different learning styles and homeschools that place an importance on engaging, multisensory learning.

Those looking for an activity rich reading program

Jolly Phonics is filled with activities and exercises that parents and students can engage in.

With songs, painting, coloring, directed body movements and crafts, the program can be a lot of fun and moves far beyond the usual workbook exercises, lectures and readings found in many other programs.

Those who want to get kids starting to read quickly

As it builds its letter groups around commonly blended sounds, Jolly Phonics is a program that aims to get students reading short words as fast as possible and then quickly builds on those skills to get them reading more fluently. 

Who Is It Not Ideal For?

Those looking for a complete ELA program

Although a comprehensive way of learning phonics and handwriting, Jolly Phonics is not a complete language arts program and students will eventually need to move on to programs for grammar, spelling, vocabulary and more. 

Those looking for a self-study or automated program

Jolly Phonics is a program that involves a good deal of parental involvement. 

From leading lessons to doing kinesthetic exercises along with their students to helping with the various reinforcement activities and projects, parents play a key role in this program and its lessons may require some time and effort on their part. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD. 

Jolly Phonics does offer quite a few items parents can purchase over the course of Pre-K to Grade 2 instruction, such as the core instructional content (teacher’s guides, student books), reinforcement materials (activity books, Finger Phonics, readers) and early learning options (Jolly Stories) and various media (DVDs, song CDs, resource CDs, digital apps).

Parents can, of course, buy these individually and we’ve listed some of the prices we’ve found below.

Teacher’s guides – $9.95

Student books – $8.75

Readers – $11.50-15.00

Activity books – $8.00

Finger Phonics – $10.50

DVD – $37.50

Jolly Songs – $17.50

Jolly Songs app – $2.99+

Jolly Phonics Lesson app – $9.99

With that said, the easiest way to get started with Jolly Phonics for homeschools is usually through a bundled set or package. 

Depending on the content, these range from $85 for a basic set to $433.15 for a more complete set of PK-2 materials  

As always, parents should check for the latest prices, as well as for any discounts or offers that may be available.


Is It Worth The Price?

Overall, we feel that Jolly Phonics is a very interesting program that can provide a great deal of value to homeschooling families. 

It offers a comprehensive approach to teaching synthetic phonics, teaching phonetic rules systematically and thoroughly, helping students form stronger letter sound connections through focused activities and practicing them using an assortment of materials and methods. 

It also goes beyond simple phonics and provides students with essential instruction in proper print handwriting and even basic reading comprehension, something that many other learn to read programs don’t tend to cover. 

Jolly Phonics is also highly multisensory, which not only makes lessons more interesting and engaging but allows students with different learning preferences to find a learning path that speaks to their needs, whether that is through song, written work, discussions or kinesthetic activities. 

Finally, the program also offers families the opportunity to further practice their phonics in a less stressful manner using a number of different fun activities, such as painting, sculpting, baking and more, as well as materials that are colorful, illustrated and generally fun to look at. 

Bottom Line

Despite its importance, teaching students to read isn’t always so easy and can even be pretty intimidating for both parents and students. 

Offering multisensory exercises, colorful materials and fun activities alongside a strong, step-by-step and comprehensive approach to synthetic phonic instruction, Jolly Phonics can be an engaging, enjoyable and less stressful way of helping students learn to read. 

Picture of our author and editor Anne Miller

About the Author

Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.