Phonics Wars


The reading wars are on again despite the fact that, as a condition of grants, every Prep/Foundation/Kinder and Grade 1 child is supposed to be taught phonics. Hey! What does it matter! Everybody does what they want anyway. Frightening statistics tell us that 1 in 10 people driving on the roads is under the influence of drugs. They may also not have a license and be drunk.


Well it does matter because our language is made up of sounds. These sounds make up our words. There are over a hundred individual sounds, not just the forty odd, that even those who teach phonics are teaching. Most of what is being taught is being taught on a computer, e.g., Reading Eggs. The problem is that the computer doesn’t know if the child is pronouncing the sound correctly and it doesn’t teach rules.



When a child starts to read, they need to sound words out and this should be encouraged. Most children initially find running sounds together hard to do and need help. If there are comprehension questions read the passage back to the child afterwards, as reading and comprehending are two different skills. Eventually running the words together clicks and children can run the sounds together automatically. (Our brain is an incredible computer.) I have come to believe that when this occurs is pre-programmed into a child’s genetics.


Reading is the greatest gift you can give your children. It opens up worlds. For over fifteen years I have watched some of my grandchildren and hundreds, if not thousands of homeschooling families, teach their children to read using the Learn to Read, Write & Spell series. The results have gladdened my heart. One customer I remember well taught her children to read and then, seeing her friends’ children having difficulty, bought the books for them and helped them teach their children. As her children grew up she became a very successful tutor to many other children, and not just in reading.


Learning phonics takes time but it works. If the sounds are then reinforced in the child’s spelling, as in Successful Spelling, most children can, after a few years, read anything.