Could phonics be bad for your child?

Academic controversially claims phonics could be damaging to advanced readers

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Able readers are being damaged by the use of phonics to teach reading in primary schools, an academic has said.

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However, the Department for Education insists phonics – blending common sounds into words – is the best way to teach reading. The Government strongly encourages English schools to use reading schemes based on synthetic phonics and has also introduced a phonics test for all Year 1 pupils.

But according to the BBC, Durham University researcher Andrew Davis says children who have already started to read will be put off by sounding out words.

But former primary school teacher Dr Davis, has published a pamphlet that says the small minority of children who begin school able to read and understand sentences could be put off by reading books featuring only words for which they have been taught the phonetic rules in class.

He says: “To subject either the fully fledged readers, or those who are well on their way, to a rigid diet of intensive phonics is an affront to their emerging identities as persons.

“To require this of students who have already gained some maturity in the rich and nourishing human activity of reading is almost a form of abuse.”

He recognises that phonics is useful for teaching children to read from scratch, but argues it should not be rigidly imposed on all.

“Being forced to move back from reading for meaning to a mechanical exercise of blending and decoding is likely to be off-putting,” he said.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Too many children are not reaching the expected levels of reading at a young age, do not catch up, and then struggle in secondary school and beyond.

“Research shows overwhelmingly that systematic phonics is the most effective way of teaching reading to children of all abilities, enabling almost all children to become confident and independent readers.

“Thanks to the phonics check 177,000 six-year-olds will this year get the extra reading help they need to catch up with their peers.”

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