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How many graphemes are there?
Research

How many graphemes are there?

In English, there are around 44 phonemes (sounds), but there are around 250 graphemes (letters or letter groups that correspond to a single sound). This is because every phoneme (sound) corresponds to more than one grapheme (letter or letter groups) across different words.

For example, the phoneme /f/ has four graphemes: f (as in funny)ff (as in puff), ph (as in photo), and gh (as in laugh).

The phoneme /ī/ has five graphemes: i (as in kind), igh (as in night), i-e (as in bite), y (as in try) and ie (as in pie).

Exactly because there is no one-to-one correspondence between phonemes and graphemes, children need systematic phonics instruction in order to learn the most common phonemes for each grapheme and the most common graphemes for each phoneme. This will enable them to decode (read) and encode (spell).

Below is a chart with the most common graphemes for each phoneme that children are taught at school.

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Deep Dive

Read our report on the Science of Reading. Research-based reading instruction must incorporate the 5 pillars of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. This report provides an easy to understand overview of each of these pillars and explains the important connection between how the brain learns to read (the Neuroscience of Reading) and how we teach children to read (The Science of Reading Instruction). It also explains why helping children build connections between letters and sounds, through phonics and phonemic awareness, is so crucial for the developing reading mind. This report is perfect for sharing with colleagues and friends!