According to Jennifer Buckingham, “far too many children are not learning to read in the early years of school – and the longer they are at school, the larger the gap between the highest and lowest performing children becomes”.
In her article published yesterday she goes on to explain that “the reason so many children are failing to learn to read is that they are not getting the best reading instruction in the early years of school”.
In a nutshell, her point is essentially that explicitly teaching phonics is the way to go.
Now of course we know that simply learning phonics alone is not enough to learn to read. Phonics is just one essential part of the reading puzzle, it’s not the whole picture. While schools and teachers do “do” phonics through programs such as “Jolly Phonics” and “Ants in the Apple” it’s not enough, especially for the children who are struggling. The current research and evidence strongly indicates that systematic, explicit instruction in phonics is crucial and it must be taught well.
Research has also shown that phonological awareness is a powerful predicator of success in learning to read and spell. Phonological awareness refers to the ability to attend to, analyse and manipulate sounds (phonemes) within words. It is not the same as being able to hear, discriminate between sounds or say words, and it is not the same as phonics. Good phonological awareness skills enable children to better develop their understanding of the alphabetic system, which is crucial in learning to read and spell.
It is imperative to remember though that reading difficulties are not a “one size fits all” scenario. You can find our previous post on children’s reading difficulties here.
It is the particular nature of the reading problem that determines the treatment needed, not the other way around. Effective treatment of a struggling reader requires first identifying the specific reading problems the reader has, then designing a reading-based program to develop the skills that have fallen behind.
If your child is experiencing any difficulties with their reading just remember – if in doubt, check it out!